Monday, December 21, 2009

Off Topic Novel---Old School Detective Story: Rizzo's War

Rizzo's War: A Novel, Lou Manfredo, Minotaur/St. Martin's Press, 290 pp., 2009, $24.99.

After 27 years on the force, Joe Rizzo becomes wise, nurturing uncle to recently promoted street cop Mike McQueen. A young, handsome, skilled and lucky, McQueen replaces Rizzo's long time partner Morelli, an alcoholic and gambler. Rizzo and McQueen tackle assaults and the occasional homicide. They are called a upon to find a missing teenager whose father is a Brooklyn councilman. Nothing is simple or obvious. Realistic urban settings in the courthouse and on the beat help pace the novel. Husband and dad Rizzo plays master to McQueen the student.

Lou Manfredo, the author, brings 25 years of experience in Brooklyn's criminal-justice system to the novel. A uniformed court officer and a court clerk, Manfredo conveys the ethical and moral situations of police work; Joe Rizzo's deals with such situations with the philosophy that "There is no right, there is no wrong, there just is." The reader wonders how often those words echo through the halls of NYC justice systmem. McQueen develops a crush on a woman who has been sexually assaulted in the subway. Vowing to capture the man who abused her, McQueen and Rizzo locate the man, who he is a junkie but has overdosed about a half an hour before their discovery. Rizzo explains to McQueen what must be done. A report is written that the man confessed to the assault before he died and they get credit for the detective work and the capture. The case is officially closed. Rizzo's art of trimming corners includes a free meal from an Italian restaurant and the performance guard duty late at night as the restaurant's staff later takes the day's profits to the bank. There are many day-to-day details like this that ring true. Rizzo's War is much like the Ed McBain's paramont 87th Precinct series of novels. CWL met McBain once and asked him what part of the writing effort was the most enjoyable. McBain said that it was living and riding with the cops that he enjoyed the most. CWL believes that Manfredo would probably answer the question in the same manner.

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