Friday, February 12, 2016

A Complex and Entertaining Police Prodedural

Sarah Burke is a homicide detective in Tucson, Arizona, with an unconventional family life. She lives with her boyfriend, who is also a cop, along with her mother and her niece. It's not a common arrangement, but it seems to work for all of them, and it gives Sarah the support she needs to do a very difficult and demanding job.

On a Saturday morning, Sarah's plans to go shopping with her niece are interrupted when she's called to an officer-involved shooting. A patrolman, relatively new to the force, has interrupted a burglary in process, and the perpetrator drew down on him. The patrolman reacted instinctively, drew his own weapon and fired three shots, killing the thief.

It seems to be a perfectly straightforward case of a justifiable shooting. Video from the officer's dashboard camera clearly shows that the incident played out exactly has the patrolman has described it. But the detectives are shocked when they get a closer look at the victim and realize that it's an ex-cop named Ed Lacey. Lacey used to be a training officer and was known as the Red Man because of the red protective headgear that he wore while training recruits in hand-to-hand combat.

As Sarah and the rest of the unit delve into the case, it seems clear that Ed Lacey's life had gone completely off the rails in the last couple of years and that he ultimately committed suicide by cop. The spark that touched off this disaster came when the uncle who had raised Lacey, and to whom he was devoted, committed suicide two years earlier after being accused of embezzling nearly $90,000 from the credit union where he worked. The uncle insisted that he was innocent and Lacey supported him vehemently. They money was never recovered.

What initially seemed like a relatively simple situation thus quickly evolves into something much more sinister and complex. Sarah and the other detectives probe deeply into the lives of Ed Lacey and the members of his extended family and the deeper they dig the murkier and more dangerous the case becomes.

This is a very well-plotted book and it moves swiftly along. It's billed as "a Sarah Burke Police procedural," and Gunn clearly knows her stuff. The police procedure is by the book and very believable. Gunn uses the Tucson setting to excellent advantage and, all in all, this is a very entertaining story.

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