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by Rich Zahradnick
Camel Press, October 2016
264 pages
ISBN: 1603812113

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

On the eve of New York City's once-in-a-lifetime celebration of the US Bicentennial, crime reporter Taylor Coleridge is assigned to cover the happy PR stories associated with the fleets of tall ships arrived from all over the world and the equally imposing collection of military craft in the harbor and on the rivers. Trapped by necessity–he is now working for a tiny wire service run by his long-time friend Novak for which he is the only real in-depth newshound–Taylor finds himself frustrated and emotionally involved when he witnesses the discovery of the dead body of a woman near the New Jersey docks, a woman shot through the right eye and weighted down so she won't surface with six bags of brown heroin strapped to her. Although embarrassingly seasick from riding on a police craft giving him a tour of the celebration's watery geography, he moves straight into his habitual pattern of asking questions of everyone who will talk to him to figure out what's happened and who's responsible before anyone else can beat him to the story.

This man is driven by his need to give some kind of identity to the victims he comes across and to help steer their cases toward a just resolution. This becomes almost impossible now with the size of the assignment he's already been given but he can't let it go so while doing what he has to do, Taylor keeps nosing around every shred of a lead he can ferret out into the murder of what turns out to be a housewife who happens to be married to the lawyer son of a Mafia-like of family that deals in brown heroin.

Added into the mix is her own family, an unsavory collection of lesser criminals (in power, not in desire) who happen to be Irish and a nasty Chinese tong moving in with better heroin, white heroin, called Black Sail.

Toss in the Coast Guard, the NYPD, a small-town PD, and the FBI – none of whom are sharing with each other or with Taylor–and pull the whole story off in three days and things get very hectic and messy.

The pace is of necessity quick and varied, Rich Zahradnick's characters are well established and interesting, and the plot is intense and convoluted. There is a wonderful retro dime novel flavor to the protagonist and the telling which really suits the New York City setting. And Zahradnick's knowledge and use of the huge variety of watercraft is smoothly researched and presented.

Gritty, tough, and well done – this one's a treat.

§ Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, September 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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