cover image Wall of Brass

Wall of Brass

Robert Daley. Little Brown and Company, $22.95 (409pp) ISBN 978-0-316-17206-6

The murder of a top cop and the political infighting that ensues form the focus of Daley's first-rate new thriller. When New York City Police Commissioner Harry Chapman is shot while jogging on Manhattan's Upper West Side, his former patrol-car partner, Bert Farber, now chief of detectives, is assigned to find the killer. Farber is also one of three top contenders to replace Chapman as commissioner, and his two chief rivals are doing their best to roadblock him in his search for the killer. Complicating the situation are Farber's torrid romance with Chapman's wife, Mary Alice, growing doubts about the dead man's true character and personality-and a deadline: by law, the mayor has only 10 days to name Chapman's replacement. Balancing Farber's investigation with chapters detailing his and Chapman's past relationship and their early competition for Mary Alice's affections, Daley constructs his mystery as an absorbing character study, concentrating mainly on Farber but soon revealing that Chapman was less than the paragon he appeared. Tight and tautly told, this novel is much more satisfying than Daley's last, Tainted Evidence, because it's built around a character that readers will care about and that Daley seems to care about as well. As in his best work, moreover, the author displays his bone-deep knowledge of New York cops and criminals (manifest most enjoyably here in a vividly portrayed mob boss chipped off the block of John Gotti)-a knowledge surely gained in part when, in the early '70s, Daley served as the city's deputy police commissioner. Readers' Digest Condensed Books. (Oct.)