Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Force by, Don Winslow

All Denny Malone wanted to be was a good cop.

Don Winslow's The Force is the story of the fall of a dirty cop. Denny Malone runs the Manhattan North Division's Task Force as its undisputed king, but things aren't all rosy in his kingdom. Set against the backdrop of Ferguson, Freddie Gray, and a fictional shooting by an NYPD cop, extra scrutiny is being paid to all NYPD task forces by the community, the brass, the mayor's office, and Internal Affairs. Pretty soon, Malone is neck deep in a pile of crap.

As always, Winslow's prose is tight and punchy. Even though I sped through the first 100 pages, I felt it was a lot more establishing the world and the character of Denny Malone than anything actually happening. At that point, it kicked into high gear.

In the back third of the book, The Shield's Vic Mackey kept popping into my head. In many ways, Malone and Mackey are similar, but with distinctions. Malone is the stereotypical dirty cop. He first starts by being extra violent with some offenders, then takes freebies, then finally starts taking and being a courier for bribes. Mackey was a more nuanced dirty, where he let certain crimes go and protected certain gangs if they played by his rules (no selling in school zones, no kids involved, you snitch when I tell you to snitch). He does it to provide for himself and his team in their retirement. Malone does it because everyone does it (and to provide for his family). Both their downfalls are initiated by stepping over the line from dirty cop to outright criminal:  The Shield's Armenian Money Train and Malone ripping 50 kilos of high quality heroin from a scumbag. The other difference is in how they react when trapped. At one point Mackey realizes what he did was wrong and he takes actions to first protect his team, then his family, then himself. Malone never admits that he's as bad as the skells he puts away and, reluctantly at first, burns down everyone he knows in order to save his own hide.

For readers of this blog to hear me compare something to The Shield, know that's high praise from me. You'll also know how much I love Don Winslow. This is another great book by a guy at the top of his craft.

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