Wednesday, July 04, 2012

If you're going to read one police procedural...

THE BROKEN BLUE LINE by Connie Dial: I read Dial's first novel, INTERNAL AFFAIRS, back in 2009, and was blown away by the authenticity Dial's experience as an LAPD veteran brings to a police procedural. THE BROKEN BLUE LINE (2010) is the follow-up, tracking Detective Mike Turner as he once again takes on corrupt cops in an Internal Affairs investigation. A cop on disability may be handling illegal weapons, and Turner and his team are brought in to close the case.

Turner is a tough, uncompromising cop who doesn't tolerate corruption in the ranks. He has a very noir feel, and Dial's language sometimes pays homage to the hard-bitten detectives of classic mysteries, with language like "He could feel his heart beating faster. The chase had started. In every surveillance, the prey always thought he could hide, outsmart the hunter, but he couldn't. Turner was confident that he and Miller were too good at this. They would slip and dodge until they followed Cullen and his partner to whatever it was Cullen was trying to hide." The noir mood isn't intrusive or satirical, just a nod to tough-as-nails cops and detectives in decades of novels and stories. In keeping with tradition, Turner's personal life is a disaster. He drinks too much and suffers horrible nightmares, and his sometime girlfriend moves back in to complicate things. His elderly neighbor moving in and his beloved but flatulent dog give him a complex, human feel.

Dial's work is filled with the details of police investigations and bureaucracy, seamlessly integrated into a gripping mystery. "Turner had taken the best notes all day, so he became the case agent - meaning he became the primary detective on the case and would be stuck doing the daily logs and all the legwork." Besides the day-to-day revelations, the bureaucracy is fascinating. Although Internal Affairs handles surveillance on dirty cops, there is a question of whether the case should be kicked to Robbery Homicide. While bureaucracy is not generally the most exciting part of a novel, Dial's knowledge of the LAPD's inner workings makes the "which department gets the case" discussion genuinely interesting. The case is a potential land mine, but it's also a potential career-maker, and Turner's bosses decide to keep it.

In Dial's world, and one assumes in the real world, no two cops are alike. Some are good people, just doing their jobs, but some are opportunistic and honorless. They use the job to get what they want. Some stick closely to procedure; others are loose cannons. This is true in patrol cops and upper management, men and women.

I've probably overused the word "authenticity," but really, Dial's experience and her ability to convey it in fiction set her novel apart from your usual police procedural. Like its predecessor, THE BROKEN BLUE LINE is an inside look at the LAPD and its police officers, and Dial doesn't shy away from criticism.

Read my review of INTERNAL AFFAIRS here.

Source disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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