Twenty-five-year veteran Sutton proves that there’s little glamour in police work.
He patrols low-income neighborhoods a few miles from the glitter of the Las Vegas strip, usually on the overnight graveyard shift. The 19 vignettes here reveal a world of domestic abuse, drug use, petty theft and random violence. An honor student hangs himself after receiving a less-than-perfect report card. A daughter beats her dying mother to death in a hospice bed. Gang members slay a grandmother in front of her grandchildren for complaining about the noise the gang members were making outside her tenement window. Victims are often the most innocent and defenseless: young children run down by cars, infants shot in drive-by shootings, the mentally unbalanced vagrants who have slipped through the social services net. When not on the job, Sutton (True Blue, 2004) spends his evenings alone, trying to drink away the grime from his last shift. It’s a grim portrait, relieved only by the rare uplifting encounter. In the last and longest vignette, a fellow police officer is lifted from a suicidal depression by a sick puppy he finds in a Dumpster. In an earlier tale, Sutton’s heart leaps when a young black girl hugs him after he helps her across a busy intersection. The author clearly knows these mean streets. Unfortunately, his narrative suffers from clumsy, overreaching prose and a maddening lack of crucial detail. Too often, he leaves us stranded at crime scenes without telling us whether victims lived or died, or if arrests were made. A rookie cop, in tears, phones Sutton after his partner commits suicide. A few days later, the rookie sends Sutton the same cryptic message that he’d retrieved from his dead partner’s car. Did the rookie also commit suicide? We never know.
Conveys the emotional toll exacted by years of cleaning up after human misdeeds, but lacks the crisp narrative and grit of the truly satisfying police story.