Posts Tagged ‘New York City police detective’

SUNRISE HIGHWAY by Peter Blauner: Book Review

The saying “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em” is a famous line from Twelfth Night.  Can it also be that some are born evil and some have evil thrust upon them?

Hauppauge, New York is the kind of small town people move to in order to escape violence and crime in the big city.  On the surface all is well in this town with its good public schools and its strong police force and judiciary.  But under the surface things are rotten.

In 1977, a young white girl is killed in a wooded area of town, with a bunch of twigs and leaves stuffed down her throat.  Suspicion immediately falls on Delaney Patterson, one of the few young black men in town.  The police theorize that Delaney, who had recently moved to Hauppauge and was touted to be a star on the high school football team, got in with the wrong crowd when an injury forced him off the gridiron.

Detective “Billy the Kid” Rattigan tells the new, naive, and eager-to-please assistant district attorney, Kenny Makris, that he believes the young man and the girl had a fight, possibly over drugs, and that Delaney killed her.  Rattigan even has someone who witnessed, or nearly witnessed, what happened–that both young people went into the woods but only Delaney came out.  And the witness is Joey T., then the teenage son of a police officer in town.

Now, thirty years later, Joey T. has become the town’s police chief.  He is in control of every aspect of the law, and those who oppose him do so at their peril.  It’s Joey T. who seems to have been born evil and Kenny Makris who has evil thrust upon him.  But evil is insidious, and once Kenny has taken that first step over to the “dark side,” it’s too late to reconsider.

Into this situation comes Lourdes Robles, a New York City police detective.  She is called to Far Rockaway in that city’s borough of Queens when a large green bag is washed up on the shore.  Upon opening the bag it’s discovered that inside is the corpse of a pregnant woman, her throat stuffed with rocks.  Given that Far Rockaway is almost swimming distance to Nassau County, Lourdes and her team reach out to the police there and are surprised at their colleagues’ immediate determination to take over the case.  It’s too quick, Lourdes thinks, and she determines not to give up the case until she’s forced to do so.

Joey T. runs his town with an iron fist, and those who try to oppose him are dealt with summarily.  He is adept at finding the chinks in one’s armor, and if they doesn’t exist he’ll use force to get his way.  The combination of threats and bribery has made him untouchable.  That is, until Lourdes comes to town.  She is a heroine fighting her own family-related demons, but they will not get in the way of her solving the case. 

Sunrise Highway will have you hooked from its first chapter.  Peter Blauner has written a chilling novel, with a strong, believable plot and realistic characters.   You can read more about him at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

UNHOLY CITY by Carrie Smith: Book Review

After a year-long battle with cancer, New York City police detective Claire Codella is anxious to return to her job.  She’s feeling completely recovered and eager to put her skills to use.

But although her fight with lymphoma has been won, her fight with her boss, Lieutenant Dennis McGowan, continues.  He’s made no secret of the fact that he hadn’t wanted her as a member of “his” Manhattan North force, and he’s made her return to duty as unpleasant as he could, giving her cold cases and trivial ones, disregarding the fact that she has the highest case clearance rate in the precinct.

So when the phone rings in the middle of the night in the apartment she shares with her lover and colleague, Brian Haggerty, it’s his cell phone’s ringtone, not hers.  Brian has been called out to investigate a murder at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  Claire is disappointed, but there’s nothing she can do about it.  Then, a short while later it’s her phone that rings–Brian has called for backup, knowing that Claire is on duty and that she will be called in to assist him on the case.  She’s out the door in under ten minutes.

St. Paul’s Church is a small oasis in the concrete city.  It has a two-hundred-year-old history, with a surprisingly diverse group of parishioners:  Caucasian, African-American, wealthy, and lower-middle-class, and it’s proud of that.  But behind the scenes, members of the Vestry (a committee dealing with issues regarding the church’s members) are locked in a battle that has been going on for months.  The church’s finances are in poor shape, and there’s no agreement on how to raise the necessary funds.  One vestry member, Philip Graves, wants to sell the air rights above the church to a corporation to build a luxury high-rise; another wants to improve the church’s cemetery and update its crematorium so funeral homes and other churches will pay to use it.

Feelings in the committee are running very high when the meeting ends.  Rose, one its newest members, is pleased that she finally can go home and relieve her daughter’s babysitter, but she decides to make a brief stop in the garden to see how the plants she’s nurtured are going.  But in the darkness she trips, and as she tries to right herself she realizes that what is on the path in front of her is the body of Philip Graves.

Within the small group of staff and congregants who are in the church that night, there are a lot of reasons to want Philip dead.  One person is hiding an unrequited crush on him, two others have secret lives that he has discovered, and another is having an illicit affair.  Each person is determined to keep her/his secret, but Claire Cordella is equally determined to unravel the case.

Carrie Smith has written an exciting, fast-paced mystery with realistic characters and great dialog.  Claire is a dynamic protagonist, driven by her need to excel at work and bury the demons from her past.  But that’s not so easy.

You can read more about Carrie Smith at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.