cover image BANGERS


Gary Phillips, . . Dafina, $15 (291pp) ISBN 978-0-7582-0382-3

Rafael "Saint" Santián and his elite team of cops take on gangstas and an ambitious female district attorney running for mayor in Phillips's gritty and violent tour of the underbelly of Los Angeles. The TRASH unit—Tactical Resources Against Street Hoodlums—really is a gang itself, as deadly as anyone else on the street. "When they bent the rules it was because the rules were hamstringing them from achieving the greater goal. Yeah, they copped some extras for themselves, but who didn't? It was drug money, whore money, laundered money." The main plot is standard B-movie material, merely a neat frame for a series of engaging set pieces, but the subplots allow Phillips to show that he knows his turf and its wars. Pulling a large cast from all layers of society, from bangers with the Crazy Nines to bikers wearing the Viking colors and hip-hop execs at Def Ritmo Records, he smoothly follows one character or another, whether Saint or the biker Red Dog or the Korean-American assistant D.A. shacking with Red Dog's mama. Saint even cruises down to Tijuana for some additional fun-and-gun action. As in his Las Vegas–based Martha Chainey mysteries (High Hand, etc.), Phillips doesn't worry much about loose ends, but keeps all the clips loaded. A trademark cliffhanger of an ending suggests that Saint and his crew may be series bound. (Oct. 7)