INTENT TO HARM by Stan Washburn


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 First novelist Washburn envisions a kinder, gentler cop in Toby Parkman, a college-educated, liberal, and witty detective for the '90s, here pitted against a rapist. Parkman and his partner/buddy, Walt Kramer, are, respectively, a former publishing staffer and a bookstore owner still infused with 1960s-style idealism. When their businesses went belly-up, the pair joined the police force ``to make the world a better place.'' As the novel moves between visceral squad-room scenes and languid picnics with Parkman's family--more reminiscent of upscale Gap clothing ads than of a stereotypical police clan--Washburn conjures a believably novice protagonist who has the passion, attention to detail, and enthusiasm required of a good cop. The standard-issue plot concerns a serial rapist who enjoys stalking his victims for days before sodomizing them. After collaring a child molester, Parkman is asked by Sgt. Gadek in the sex crimes unit to interview rape victims as part of the effort to catch the stalker. These scenes, in which characters are forced to relive their brutalization, are haunting; Washburn conveys with unrelenting clarity the overwhelming sense of degradation felt by rape victims. In contrast to the searing interviews, prolonged descriptions of the rapist's break-ins (to watch his victims sleep) quickly lose their dramatic impact through repetition, and the pace occasionally suffers as well. A former police reserves officer himself, Washburn deftly leads the reader through the process of detection: at first tedious and technical, then thrilling as various clues lead to the rapist's identity. In an era of cheap automatic weapons and rising crime, Parkman stands as the author's Everyman, eventually fortifying his own home against possible attack. While the rapist's capture comes at a high human cost, the ending succeeds in being reassuring: These are cops who want not only to protect, but to heal. A good start with a credible, likeable hero.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-88457-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994