John Mackie, Author . Onyx $6.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-451-41095-5

Fans of Mackie's debut, Manhattan South, will be pleased to note that NYPD Det. Sgt. Thornton Savage, the larger-than-life protagonist of this high intensity police procedural, hasn't lost his hard edge or his renegade impulses. Set in the heart of Harlem, the novel opens with the brutal murder of Horace Grimes, a notorious drug kingpin. Savage and his homicide squad take the case—which turns out to be the latest in a series of gruesome drug-czar slayings. But after the lead investigator, one of Savage's longtime friends, is killed, the case turns personal. Savage arrests Derek Ogden, who has made a fortune running the city's most ruthless drug ring, but he lacks the evidence to hold Ogden and his sadistic protégé. While Savage builds his case, Ogden arranges for the detective's fiancée to be killed, which sends Savage on a manhunt. Mackie excels at creating grisly imagery and dissecting intricate police work for lay readers. Unfortunately, he isn't as adept at writing about interpersonal relationships. The dialogue between Savage and his bride-to-be feels forced. Likewise, when Mackie tries to convey his characters' emotions, his prose often becomes overly dramatic. Nevertheless, the book's relentless pacing and spine-chilling suspense will keep readers on their toes. (July)

Forecast:The book's blatant cover image—depicting an eagle-crested NYPD badge, the Manhattan Bridge and Mackie's name in super-sized lettering—should work to its advantage. Booksellers would be wise to shelve this one face-out.

Reviewed on: 06/02/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
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