Malone’s debut crime thriller looks at cops giving in to the temptation to step outside the law.
The novel’s ostensible protagonist is Jim Murphy, a new recruit to the police force in the city of Justice. Leaving behind a job managing a local auto shop, Murphy doesn’t know exactly what to expect, but he’s certain that he wants to be a part of the force more than anything. Unfortunately, this desire may not resonate with readers, due to awkward, overly explanatory prose: “He was excited about starting his new career, but apprehensive about the newness and challenging nature of it.” However, the story also uses several other cops as point-of-view characters, and their perspectives keep the novel fresh and interesting. Lowell, for example, is a capable, sardonic veteran; Nielsen has money problems that make corruption an attractive option; and Rhodes is a woman trying to break into the boys’ club. Each officer’s story serves as a reminder that the everyday reality of being a cop isn’t always easy to explain. Soon, a rising wave of gang and drug crime pushes some of the cops over the edge to take the law into their own hands. One of their own is shot and another ends up dead; add to that the yoke of excessive-force complaints and the frustration of watching gang members escape jail time, and it’s easy for readers to see why these characters choose to fight back. Throughout, the unspoken rule that cops protect their own gives the story a genuine moral complexity, as the power of the badge leads to constant temptation. Malone shows an honest reverence for both classic crime fiction and police life, and he remains admirably objective for much of the novel, neither condemning nor condoning his characters’ actions. That said, the story is perhaps too sympathetic when officers assault and even murder in the pursuit of payback: “Can I live with that? thought Murphy. Sure—no problem.”
An often engaging cop tale that sometimes gets a bit too close to its subjects to maintain its moral grays.