Simon Kernick, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-312-31401-9

British author Kernick shows every sign of being a major talent in his debut novel, a gritty, noir police procedural. Seemingly a cold-blooded hit man, Dennis Milne turns out to be a London detective sergeant committed, after years of dealing with sordid crimes and mind-numbing cruelty, to pursuing justice as he defines it. Milne's personal code of ethics is compromised when he learns that his latest victims weren't the drug dealers whose deaths wouldn't burden his conscience but two customs agents and an accountant. His decision to spare the life of a potential eyewitness places him in jeopardy both from his colleagues on the force and from those who paid him for the killings. At the same time, Milne doggedly tries to identify a young hooker's murderer, and persists in rejecting the official theory of the case. Kernick does a masterful job of making Milne sympathetic, despite his callous brutalities, by combining a captivating first-person narrative with emotionally complex characterization. The portrayal of the harsh realism of the mean city streets is complemented by the revelations of the secret lives of the supporting characters with their masks of public respectability. Powerful prose, tight plotting and a clever fair-play puzzle add up to a remarkable first effort. (June 16)

Reviewed on: 05/05/2003
Release date: 06/01/2003
Mass Market Paperbound - 464 pages - 978-0-552-15737-7
Mass Market Paperbound - 329 pages - 978-0-552-14970-9
Paperback - 335 pages - 978-0-312-31402-6
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-552-16428-3
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-4070-8435-0
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4668-2488-1
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