SUSPECTS by William J. Caunitz


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Like One Police Plaza (1984), this second NYPD procedural (from a veteran cop) is padded out to mainstream-novel size (374 pp.) with an uneven array of familiar ingredients: gritty/comic vignettes from police-station life, strongly echoing Wambaugh and Hill Street Blues; lots of quirkiness and kinkiness, not always convincing, among the suspects; and downbeat glimpses (less than compelling) of the cop-hero's psychosexual private life. The central case itself is firmly intriguing. In the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, a mysterious gunman (an odd-looking older white man) shoots down two people ha a candy store--narcotics cop Lt. Joe Gallagher and elderly store-owner Yetta Zimmerman--before quickly disappearing. A confused, would-be holdup man? Or a hired killer, out to assassinate Gallagher. . .or Yetta? True, Gallagher is the one who leads to lots of suspects: he was an incorrigible, kinky philanderer--with several married women among his conquests. But why, then, does the killer next strike Yetta's son (a Manhattan doctor) and daughter-in-law? Brooding on all these questions is 40-ish Lt. Tony Scanlon--who recently lost a leg after a shoot-out, leading to impotence (except with prostitutes) and the loss of gorgeous DA-girlfriend Jane. When not being tormented by this situation or indulging in flashbacks, Scanlon--with help from lesbian cop Maggie--interviews the many suspects; he also wrangles with internal NYPD politics. And, after the pursuit of a few red herrings (some of them too obvious), Scanlon comes up with the not-entirely plausible solution, chases and traps the culprits. . .and, thanks to a highly contrived twist, sees that justice is quick and complete. (He also gets his gift back after some insta-therapy.) Despite the erratic plotting, some lurid/overwrought lapses, and chunks of stagy, stiff dialogue: solid entertainment for the down-and-dirty police-novel audience--not in a class with Wambaugh or Uhnak, but readable and vivid enough on its own formulaic level.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1986
Publisher: Crown