Chains of Command

William J. Caunitz, Author Dutton Books $23.95 (323p) ISBN 978-0-525-94514-7
New York City cops fight corruption and murder while drug rings battle one another in this stellar, labyrinthine police procedural from the bestselling Caunitz (One Police Plaza). The shooting of Officer Johnny Rodriguez, a corrupt street cop in the mainly Hispanic neighborhood of Washington Heights who doubled as a spy for Internal Affairs, threatens the future career of Deputy Police Commissioner Suzanne Albrecht, to whom he reported. Albrecht wants to be New York's first female commissioner, and a scandal around her informants could quash her chances. So Suzanne transfers her old flame Lt. Matt Stuart (familiar from Caunitz's previous novels) out of his post in Intelligence, setting him up as the new head of Washington Heights' 37th Precinct, and charging him to investigate Johnny's death. The obvious suspect is local drug lord Tio Paco, but Stuart discovers a dirtier cop with a vengeful agenda, and a deadly female shooter on the Italian mob's payroll. Info from Matt's undercover sources, and some timely wiretaps, hint at a bigger story. Colombia's Cali cartel and the Russian mafiyah have jointly controlled the supply of drugs to Washington Heights' Dominican bosses and largely black street pushers. But now the Italians and the Chinese tong gangs are teaming up to try to displace the Russians and Colombians. Bodies pile up, secrets accumulate and power shifts and shifts again as Matt and his crew join forces with the Intelligence division to find major corruption in the police and intrigue among the drug dealers. The narrative lures the reader down one bloody path and onto another, dropping just enough clues to keep the big secrets till the end. Once again, Caunitz, himself an NYPD officer for 30 years, combines suspense with details about the milieu he knows: here, however, greater power is accorded to women, both within the NYPD and in the ranks of the drug dealers. All five city boroughs, along with Long Island, play roles in the novel; all the locations are crisply rendered, and the busy characters sharply drawn. The narrative pace never fails, and a perfect ending provides justice for all without a maudlin note. (Sept.) FYI: Caunitz died in 1996, leaving half of the manuscript for this novel. It was completed by his long-time friend Christopher Newman.
Reviewed on: 08/30/1999
Release date: 09/01/1999
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7871-2262-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 410 pages - 978-0-451-40918-8
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7887-4036-7
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