I am always on the lookout for a good crime book set in D.C., and this one seemed especially promising because the main characters include two female members of the police force. My sister is in the D.C. Police, so I couldn’t wait to read it.
Mason “Mace” Perry has just been released from prison after serving for two years for a crime for which she, a former D.C. cop, was framed. Her sister Beth, six years older and traditionally more like a mom to Mace than a sister, and who also happens to be the D.C. Chief of Police, could not help Mace too much without risking her own position.
Mace misses the police force like crazy, but cannot be readmitted unless she is cleared of the criminal charges. She figures that if she can help crack a big case, maybe she can get back on the force anyway. She accompanies Beth to the scene of a crime at a law firm and attaches herself to a lawyer there, Roy Kingman. Together, they go behind Beth’s back to help solve the mystery.
Mace and Roy soon discern they are in a very dangerous situation, as the criminal matter seems to reach all the way up to the Director of National Intelligence. But how, and why? And will they survive an investigation with such huge stakes?
Discussion: There is not much complex characterization in this book, and not really even much mystery. The bad guys are pretty darn bad, and the good guys are pretty darn good. Mace is drawn with a little more nuance than the other characters, but not much. It seems as if Baldacci was going for a girl like Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but the level of skill and art is just not there.
Sometimes his prose gets a bit purplish:
“The homicide rate in D.C. was nowhere near what it used to be in the late 1980s and early 1990s when young drug kingpins wearing brutish crowns formed from the tendrils of the crack cocaine era enjoyed their reign of terror.”
Sometimes he gets carried away with his male preoccupations. This next passage is purportedly Mace’s observation:
“Mona Danforth [evil interim U.S. attorney for D.C.] had on her usual expensive two-piece Armani suit, and a bulky litigation briefcase large enough to carry the fate of several targets of the lady’s professional ambition tapped against one shapely leg.”
Yeah, that’s a typical girl observation.
In a later confrontation with Mace, Mona, who had been the prosecutor when Mace went to jail, told Mace she looked like a hag. Mace responded:
“‘Hey, Mona, I’ve been gone for twenty-four months and the best you can do is interim U.S. attorney? You need to ratchet up the political humping, babycakes, before your looks really slide into your ass.”
Um, yeah, that’s a believable exchange between the top politically-appointed prosecutor (Mona) and the sister of the Chief of Police (Mace), herself a former policewoman and aspirant to be in that position once again.
Or how about this one? A benefactor who is hiring Mace for research help meets Roy, and finds out Roy played point guard for UVA about eight years earlier. Altman says:
“Let me see, thirty-two points, fourteen assists, seven rebounds, and three steals. And with six-tenths of a second left you drove to the basket, made a reverse lay-up, drew the foul, calmly made the free throw, and we lost by one.”
This presumes the elderly Altman memorizes the stats of every nobody for every game for every year. Sure.
Evaluation: This just barely makes the cut for me for an acceptable airplane book. I’m still putting my money on George Pelecanos for crime books set in D.C.
Published by Grand Central Publishing, 2009