BLACK SAND by William J. Caunitz
Kirkus Star


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Despite the publisher's 150,000-copy first printing and matching ad campaign, this third police thriller from best-selling cop/author Caunitz (One Police Plaza, 1984; Suspects, 1987) is dully formulaic, albeit cleverly glazed with a colorful Greek backdrop and intricate police-procedural detail. Although Caunitz opens in Greece--with a massacre in Vo£la that kills several, including the wife and child of Greek cop Andreas Vassos--his focus, as before, is on the N.Y.P.D., here represented by Lt. Teddy Lucas, Greek immigrant-turned-Yankeephile. It's Lucas who's assigned to work with Vassos when the Greek comes to Gotham to track down the criminal mastermind responsible for the massacre and its raison-d'etre: the theft from Greece of the casket copy of Alexander the Great's legendary and priceless manuscript of the Iliad, transcribed by Aristotle himself. Together, with the help of elegant rare-manuscript expert Katina Wright, the two cops penetrate the hermetic world of high-art theft, as well as the tangential but more thuggish world of a crime-ring (the Purple Gang) based closely on N.Y.C.'s real-life Westies, not to mention the world of Greek New York--where Teddy, under Vassos' prodding, slowly finds reconciliation with his shucked Greek heritage. Teddy falls for and beds Katina; Vassos hires whores and pretends they're his dead wife; the unnamed villain keeps tabs on the cops' sleuthing by way of lunch at the Plaza with a State Department turncoat. Through methodic investigation, the two cops close in on their prey, and, in a final shoot-out at the Purple Gang's headquarters, meet up with the casket copy and--for one cop--death. Chock-full of nifty tidbits--how to unfurl a 2,000-year-old manuscript, how to beat an infrared alarm system--but slow-going except for the bang-bang climax, and sentimental to a fault. If you've ever watched Kojak, you've met these fuzz before, and all that Grecian formula can't hide the graying of Caunitz's writerly skills.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1989
Publisher: Crown