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Crescent Blues Book ViewsImage:one and a half moon gifCrossroads Publishing (Ebook), ISBN 1-58338-603-3
Question: Take a cop, give him AIDS, kill his brother with poisoned crack, add to that a smattering -- no, a barrel-load of baaaaaad attitude, and what do you get?

Answer: Gary Drake, a cop whose cynicism level registers ten times higher than that a reporter assigned to cover the political scene.

Book: Michael LaRocca, Vigilante JusticeGary Drake's problems, the least of which includes working in Internal Affairs (IA) for the Fifth Precinct in Wilmington, Del., abound. Aside from contracting AIDS from some unknown felon, passing the disease to his now dying wife, and trying to cover up his illness, Gary must also hide his all-too personal investigation of his brother's murder. Add in a personality akin to a brick, and a love-hate relationship with a rookie IA officer, and you'll understand why Drake evokes no empathy from his colleagues -- or from the reader. Not a good flaw for the main character of a novel.

The story reminds me of what one might write after watching too many routine cop movies and television shows. The brass suspects a bunch of police of stealing confiscated tainted and highly toxic drugs and recycling the goods. These dirty cops theorize that selling bad dope far outweighs the disadvantages of killing a few innocent people. As long as they're killing junkies, they're happy campers.

During the course of the investigation, Drake gets dropped from the case, fired from the squad, re-instigated to the squad and fired from the squad yet again. Drake continues the investigation on his own time, using such novel methods as brute force and violence. Eventually, he decides that he'll need to personally kill the culprits as the law seems to be missing the point.

Like its apparent inspirations, Vigilante Justice offers a serviceable plot that lacks depth. It reads like a series of short stories tied together with a few descriptions and only a little atmosphere -- hardly enough to bring the reader into the story. In addition, although this reader admits to being clueless on proper American police procedure, I found that on occasion the story line did not seem credible, much less plausible.

Hardcore, hard-boiled police story fans may derive some enjoyment from this novel. Personally, I think Drake needed to be presented as a little more normal at the outset or his descent into total violence developed more completely for readers to accept him as a hero.

Stephen Smith

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