ROOFTOPS by Tom Lewis

ROOFTOPS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Though obviously timely, this grim, lurid story of psycho-murders of black children was inspired not by Atlanta, but by a still-unsolved 1973 N.Y. case; four third-graders are murdered over a six-month period here, and a police lieutenant on the take from a Cuban drug dealer tries to sweep the deaths under the carpet because the murderer is a ""milkman"" (drug-carrier) for the area's top dealer. So the novel features not one but four villains: the army-uniformed Dominican psycho himself, who stabs and castrates the children, then offers up their penises in juju voodoo rites; his boss Ayalla, a chauffeured KGB-Cuban agent who is financing Puerto Rican FALN terrorists with his dealings; NYPD Lieutenant Eddie O'Malley, a top precinct cop who is being paid off by Ayalla; and Deputy Chief of Police Hanratty, O'Malley's ""rabbi"" and protector. Fighting them all almost singlehandedly is Detective Sergeant Daniel Rodriguez, the only Puerto Rican cop with a gold shield in the city; and during his investigation Rodriguez meets and falls in love with Mercedes Lopez, assistant principal of the worst grade school in Harlem. . . but also a FALN associate of Ayalla. Finally, then, Rodriguez must circumvent his crooked boss O'Malley, save Mercedes (who's kidnapped), bust Ayalla, and nail the psycho: in the raging climax he decides on ""No prisoners"" and deals extreme vengeance. No match for the somewhat similar Chiefs (p. 389)--but, despite the crude lapses and contrived melodramatics that undermine credibility, this is a strong crime-novel debut, with a fair measure of graphic authenticity and well-plotted tension.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1981
Publisher: Evans