In Saltzman’s debut procedural thriller, two Brooklyn patrolmen are upgraded to plainclothes officers to work a variety of cases and declare war against crime.
A routine traffic stop turns cops Bobby Salter and Vinny Serpintino into media darlings when they arrest two notorious drug suppliers and recover close to $2.5 million in laundered money. Their transfer to the plainclothes squad to stop a string of armed robberies increases the amount of lawbreaking they come across in New York. Before long, they’re facing murdered gang members, a rapist/murderer, gunrunners and a possible assassination. Saltzman’s novel is just as much about the criminals as it is the cops, if not more so. Most officers in Bobby and Vinny’s squad are provided an engaging back story—e.g., Angel, the sole female, who’s openly gay—but so are the members of the gang BoB (Band of Brothers), most notably the leader, Cha Cha. Not that the cops are nondescript, but they sometimes feel interchangeable: Officers move to other precincts, they retire or are killed, and Bobby is the only constant, having a significant role in all the cases. The shifting of characters or job locales allows for fresh settings, as well as an impressive range of crimes to tackle, but it also brightens the spotlight on the ever-present Bobby while most of his fellow law enforcers fade into the background. Meanwhile, the impressive depiction of the criminals is more distinctive: It’s difficult not to sympathize with Cha Cha, who deals in drugs, prostitution and murder, as he helplessly watches his soldiers being systematically eliminated; the rapist/murderer has an unsettling but unquestionably riveting perspective; and while Bobby and Vinny are rarely called by their titular nicknames, the villains sport garish but amusing sobriquets—e.g., D’Cool, Skunk and Caveman. Bobby, however, holds his own; even when two cadets are sent undercover to infiltrate a gang selling guns, they’re always sure to check in with Bobby, the cop who’s clearly spearheading the investigation.
A motley assortment of bad guys will have readers struggling to remember the good guys, but in the end, the persistently solid hero prevails.