Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Whites - Harry Brandt

I suppose as long as there are those whose life's calling it is to insure that wrongdoers are brought to justice there will always be those who elude their efforts. In Harry Brandt's gripping novel, these folks are referred to as The Whites, and every member of the South Bronx anti-crime unit known as the Wild Geese had at least one bad guy who managed to wiggle off the scales of justice. 

When the book opens, though, that group of officers has long ago disbanded, most trading in their careers in law enforcement for other pursuits. Billy Graves, however, is now a sergeant in charge of Manhattan's Night Watch. He and the other members of the Wild Geese have remained friends, and each of them are well aware of each other's "whites," so when those bad guys begin to turn up dead, Billy begins to struggle with the idea that some of his former comrades have decided to exact their own justice on the unpunished. 

None of these criminals are folks about whom you'd weep: they all fall under the heading of "had it coming," but Billy's commitment to law and order force him to care at least enough to try to piece things together. All this while his family--his wife Carmen, his sons, and his father, once an officer himself now wrestling against dementia--are becoming the targets of a stalker whom Billy assumes must be coming after him. 

Even minor characters are realized well enough to fairly leap off the page, and they all add such texture to the story. 

Brandt's ability to keep the heat up on the crime elements of this story while he fleshes out the very real, very poignant circumstances in his characters' lives sets this novel apart from others of its ilk. There is something nearly Shakespearean going on here, and it is, simply put, a magnificent story. 

I highly recommend The Whites to fans of Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly most especially, but also to anyone who just loves a well-told story with an irresistible cast. 

Published in hardcover by Henry Holt
February 2015

Published in trade paper by Picador
February 2016

P.S. - I understand why some writers take on pen names to write novels unlike those their usual readers expect. There's a long history of that in publishing, after all. What I don't understand is why they no longer even attempt to keep it secret. As you can see from the picture of the book's jacket, well-established, well-regarded author Richard Price chose to publish this writing as Harry Brandt. Whatever works. 

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