cover image Justice Denied

Justice Denied

Robert K. Tanenbaum. Dutton Books, $18.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93814-9

Readers who think ``Maltese Falcon'' early on in Tanenbaum's latest thriller featuring 1970s Manhattan assistant DA Butch Karp (last seen in Material Witness ) won't be alone. As Karp and his fellow prosecutors work a rash of brutal crimes revolving around a fable jewel-encrusted icon, he and his ADA wife, Marlene Ciampi, acknowledge the parallels to Spade's case and even banter in Bogart/Lorre voices--a self-conscious moment that sounds the only false note in this otherwise seamlessly intricate novel. A hit on a Turkish diplomat launches the brisk plot, which soon finds Karp pitted against colleagues as he begins to doubt the guilt of the accused, an Armenian supposedly avenging Turkish atrocities of decades past. Playing hardball bureau politics, Karp, Ciampi and other series folk tie in parallel cases involving art fraud in high and mafia circles, and rape/homicide in a biker gang. The investigation offers bracing doses of Armenian lore and art-scam lowdown, as well as tough street action nicely balanced by smart courtroom drama in a subplot in which Karp tries an aging black mugger for murder. Though former Manhattan ADA Tanenbaum moved to Beverly Hills long ago, his New York is still as fresh as today's police blotter--and for any crime fan to miss it would constitute felonious neglect. (Sept.)