An aging police detective's regrets are examined in raw, moving detail in this superior crime drama revolving around an old murder case. Told from multiple viewpoints spanning a 30-year period from 1945 to 1975, the novel charts the troubled conscience of Jake Downing, who has risen to chief of detectives in New York City yet remains haunted by an investigation he oversaw as a young detective. Downing and his partner, Jimmy Finn, had the misfortune of being assigned the hot-potato homicide of Judge Wallace Reed, who was found bludgeoned to death in his apartment on a rainy morning at the end of WWII. For political reasons, the city's influential underworld bosses, as well as the police brass, frame a local thug for the killing, despite Downing's suspicions that Reed was slain as part of a shady real estate deal. Downing reluctantly goes along with the setup, a decision that leads to the execution of an innocent man. At the same time, the detective also falls under the influence of Reed's young wife, Cynthia, who seduces Downing into an affair that destroys his marriage. Now, 30 years later, Downing-seeking personal redemption under the guise of a quest for justice-reopens the case, finding himself fighting the same political and personal forces as in his younger days. Edgar-winning Heffernan (The Dinosaur Club; Beulah Hill) once again shows himself a craftsman of the hardboiled style, as well as a seamless handler of shifting viewpoints and emotions. Though predictable in its conclusion, this small, quiet story of one man's quest to free himself from his demons and guilt is a modest gem.
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Veteran crime writer Heffernan offers an atmospheric homage to the noir-tinged melodrama of the 1940s. Standing for Dana Andrews in the film Laura is NYPD detective Jake Downing, who falls under the spell of Cynthia Reed, hatcheck-girl-turned- wife of a crooked judge, whose head has been bashed in with a gavel. When the big boys downtown deliver a gift-wrapped suspect, Jake and hard-nosed partner Jimmy Finn know the fix is in, but their hands are tied---not that Jake cares much, since he's fallen into the widow Reed's bed while his own wife prepares to give birth back in Brooklyn. Flash-forward 30 years, and Jake, now a widower himself, vows to reopen the case. Heffernan juggles the time frames effectively, gradually revealing what happened and how it affected the principals' later lives. The crime story plays itself out agreeably if a tad predictably, but the real draw here is the cafe-society ambience--dinner at the Stork Club, drinks at 21, etc. A pleasant evening's read, best served with martinis. Bill Ott
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