.Or kneel on his neck for 8 minutes 46 seconds.
OK, 4 stars for a good story, well put together, compellingly written and some great characters. Lets get that over with. Well done Eliot Parker, nice book.
This wasn’t what really intrigued me though.
This dark and twisty police procedural goes to some unexpected places. I don’t mean the succession of murders, the possible witnesses disappearing, their mutilated bodies to be found later in suitcases – that’s stuff one expects in a story like this, and the author does it just fine.
Likewise the hardbitten “good cop” whose personal life is on the skids and who isn’t too bothered about breaking some rules along the way – that’s quite a cliché of police procedurals of too.
Even the corrupt cops, the bad apples in the barrel, who our good cop must root out – that’s a situation familiar from the genre, and there are some of these – shockingly inserted in the narrative sometimes – driving the plot of this novel.
But in this novel I’m seeing something darker.
From a sissy European perspective, the problem in this force isn’t just the presence of a couple of singular psychopaths or fallen angels to drive the plot. No, the apple barrel here is pretty rotten all the way through. (I’ve definitely read that storyline before, but only in newspapers, not in fiction. It happens, in Europe too, though it’s not the stuff that police procedurals tend to go for.)
And here our “good cop” – the one we’re supposed to be rooting for, seems troublingly corrupt herself. She’s also rather too broken to be working in that role. She is on the edge of being invalided from the force because of work-related damage; she realistically isn’t up to the job physically and she’s putting herself and others at risk because of it. She’s not really up to it emotionally either, feisty though she is. Her judgment is self-evidently clouded and as she stumbles through other cases, preoccupied with a personal one about her missing delinquent brother, which she isn’t even supposed to be investigating, her mistakes are dangeous ones.
Sometimes she’s in trouble for it, like when she tries to cut an illegal deal with an imprisoned suspect in exchange for some information about her brother – wrecking the underlying case for the cops who are supposed to be dealing with it. Other times it doesn’t even put her in trouble – she beats up a shackled suspect to get information from him, while another cop looks on – and reading this account I didn’t even pick up a sense of raised eyebrow. It’s done pretty dead-pan, no sense of judgment. I was pretty much left thinking – and I’ll be relieved if the author corrects me – that this was all supposed to be vaguely all right. The guy had her brother’s credit card after all. He probably deserved it. All in a day’s work.
It’s America of course.
It’s Cleveland, Ohio. So what if a suspect gets beaten up? That’s small fry in a city famous for killings by police. Real people I mean.
- Tamir Rice, 12 years old, 2014
- Antonio Levison 33 years old 2017
- Jeffrey Findlay, 30 years old 2017
- Bret Luengo, 33 years old 2018
- Thomas Yatsko, 21 years old 2018
- Mark Shepperd, 27 years old, 2019
- Arthur Keith, 19 years old, 2020
- Desmond Franklin, 22 years old,2020
- Trayvon Johnson, 20 years old, 2021
- Innes Lee Cooper, 25 years old, 21
That’s the same Cleveland police force as our feisty and fictional heroine here. But the list above isn’t fiction. And none of the cops who killed them went to jail. Almost none were even charged. Most of them are still working in the force.
You know what I think about America. I may have to stop reading American novels. Guess we have to be grateful that our good cop just beat the suspect up, and didn’t shoot him. Or kneel on his neck for 8 minutes 46 seconds. She’s not all bad, after all.
Review by De Gevallene