Robert K. Tanenbaum is one of those authors I have always wanted to read, but never got around to reading. My loss. Or it was my loss. I received a copy of his latest novel, Without Fear or Favor. Turns out it is the 29th in the Butch Karp-Marlene Ciampi series. Normally, when I read a series I start on the first book. I would have to go back three decades worth of books to make that happen. Instead, I sucked it up and just read the book I was sent. And I loved it! I wasn’t lost because I hadn’t read the previous titles. That is important to me as a reader!
Without Fear or Favor is timely, and relevant. It is, as they say, a thrilling novel pulled from today’s headlines. A radical Baptist reverend has taken his sermons to the streets. He is preaching hate, and violence. The charge is against the police. The preacher believes the NYPD is filled with racists, cops who get off on killing innocent black people. His goal is twofold: to create anarchy in the community, and to remain in the limelight. Both quite self-serving!
When it looks as if a rookie cop shot an unarmed black teenager, the reverend is set to pounce. Screaming for justice, and the conviction of the officer clogs the newsfeeds. Protests and rallies are poised on the verge of chaos, and violence. Tension only mounts when an innocent officer is gunned down in a city park. The boys in blue want revenge for the slaying. Lines are drawn. Sides are black and white. The officers in charge of the investigation have their work cut out for them. One side will win. One side will not be happy with the outcome.
Without Fear or Favor means doing something in an equal, and fair way. Cover-ups are in place. People know the truth. Witnesses are scared to come forward. The answers will fight for a voice in the courtroom. The decision rests with a jury. A cataclysmic event is on the cusp of eruption . . .
This book reminds me of an amazing episode of Law & Order. The first half of the novel is the police procedural. The cops and their routine is well drawn, and authentic. The courtroom drama is tight, and compelling. The twists and turns are not excessive, but dangerous. As a person who worked for ten years as a paralegal, and another ten as a dispatcher at 9-1-1, I was sucked right into the tale. (And for the record, your Honor, I have gone and ordered the first six books in the series. I have some serious catching up to do. Tanenbaum has a new fan).