cover image Officer Down

Officer Down

Theresa Schwegel, . . St. Martin's/Minotaur, $23.95 (274pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34314-9

Schwegel's instantly engrossing debut crime novel begins with the bungled bust of child molester Marko Trovic: after Samantha "Smack" Mack, a chain-smoking, hard-drinking Chicago police officer, and her partner and ex-lover, Fred, storm a pitch-dark tenement house, Smack wakes later with a nasty concussion, but Fred, shot during the attempted arrest, never does. Police officials decree that Smack's "friendly fire" killed Fred, but she's sure there were others in the room with them that night. Reeling from her concussion, Smack is given administrative leave, but offered little support (or hope of commitment) from her married lover, detective Mason Imes. A determined Smack realizes busting Trovic will be her problem alone: a meddling Internal Affairs operative harasses her, the Sarge threatens to confiscate her badge and Mason says they're going to close the case. Persistence and detective work fueled by righteous rage lead Smack to a guilty informant and an elaborate drug ring supervised by an ever expanding cast of suspects, some much closer to her than she ever imagined. Smack's voice is rough and real, conveying both her tough cookie persona and the authentic emotions behind her street face. Schwegel's sympathetic protagonist and fast-paced action turns out an impressive, gripping first novel. (Sept.)