Book Report: Suspects by William J. Caunitz (1986)

This book is gritty. A police procedural written by a former cop, set in New York City of the middle 1980s, the grit is in everything. The cops talk gritty, the scenes are gritty, and the grit gums up the smooth operation of the narrative, preventing me from really connecting with the inchoate characters.

Tony Scanlon lost a leg in a shootout, but thanks to the favors and back-scratching that grease the wheels of the Job, he gets to remain with the force as a detective squad leader in a backwater precinct. The precinct’s quiet is shattered when someone hits a well-known and well-loved police lieutenant who’s wired into all of the benevolent associations. Scanlon leads his team of detectives on the investigation, delving into the unspoken-of world of police parties complete with hookers, gambling, and booze, the world of police getting freebies on the arm, the world where police amputees with issues only find solace in the arms of hookers. Did I mention this was a gritty book?

William J. Caunitz was no Ed McBain, no Joseph Wambaugh, and not even really Tom Philbin. He throws a lot of material into the book, a lot of flashbacks, subplots, and all of his notes. The book isn’t unreadable, per se, but it could have been trimmed to about sixty percent of its current heft to great effect. Perhaps this book could serve as a gateway to police procedurals for Tolstoy scholars. I don’t know; all I know is it took me too long to read this book.