Bradby, Tom - 'Blood Money'
It's October 1929, and Joe Quinn, a young detective has been transferred to the New York City Police Department Head Quarters and whilst he has been a policeman for some time in another precinct of the City, here he is treated by his superiors as a "rookie".
His first case is the death of a banker who apparently fell from the roof of a high building. Joe believes it is a murder because the victim's footprints on the roof are reversed, showing he fell backwards after being pushed, whereas his colleagues seem to want him to believe it was a suicide. This occurred near Wall Street and there is a lot of worry about the overheating of the stock market.
Joe is assigned to partner an Italian cop close to retirement but their investigations are thwarted by their superiors at every step. Soon other colleagues of the first dead man are killed in more tragic ways. The men all appear to have connections with a mob gangster called "Lucky" Luciano and other figures in organised crime. Their leader, whose identity remains a closely guarded secret is an individual known as the "bagman" which indicates he is a high ranking cop on the take.
This is the time of prohibition and such blatant corruption is supposed to have been stopped by the FBI but perhaps they missed somebody? Joe's own father is also working at NYPD HQ but he is moody and unfriendly and more supportive of Joe's older brother Aidan. Joe's step-sister Martha, is photographed in a sexy, compromising situation and he sees one of the prints at a scene of crime but tries to keep her name out of it. In addition, Joe is haunted by memories of his mother who died when he was a child.
There is a slow build up of suspense and it doesn't let up until the end. The background detail is brilliantly defined and is wonderfully evocative of 1929 Prohibition-era New York City with a vivid picture of the everyday life at this time. The author has done a lot of meticulous research to get the historical detail just right.
This is a superb novel, but is perhaps written mainly for the US market. There are some vocabulary touches which puzzled me slightly, but I appreciated that an American reader would understand them more quickly. It is done in a subtle way and doesn't detract from the general readability and I'm sure BLOOD MONEY will be as successful as his previous books have been.
Terry Halligan, England
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