This debut novel by Conlon, a detective with the NYPD, is so effective in depicting its two main characters—protagonist Nick Meehan and his detective partner Esposito—and the unique relationship that develops between them that it should put an end to buddy cop dramas, but won’t, of course. Nick is moody, pensive, mildly introverted, the kind of investigator who mulls over a case before acting. Espo is ebullient, outgoing, flirtatious, a corner-cutter who doesn’t much care how the case gets made, as long as it gets made. The initial impression is: this one’s Irish, the other is Italian, but Conlon goes way beyond stereotypical traits in presenting these two men. And, happily, reader Deakins is equally successful in giving them voice.
We meet the lawmen a few months after they’ve met one another, arriving at a probable suicide that will spin out in several investigations ranging from a serial rapist in upper Manhattan to a 12-year-old schoolgirl who’s being stalked to an all-out gang war. Early on, we learn that Nick has made a deal with the devil, in this case Internal Affairs. In return for reassignment to a better location, he has agreed to keep an eye on Espo, believing, as Conlon puts it, that he can “betray his partner just a little and still be friends.” And friends they become.
The author’s style is both poetic (“Their moods turned as gloomy and autumnal as the landscape.”), and terse (“He had shot someone but he didn’t care.”), and sometimes combines the two (“The mid-air fixity of the woman, [hanging] taut on the tentative line, reminded him of a dog straining against a leash.”). Reader Deakins does a fine job of following his lead. He does it for 17 hours, with not a minute wasted.