cover image Bomber's Law

Bomber's Law

George V. Higgins. Henry Holt & Company, $22.5 (296pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-2329-9

``We did it for the money'' is retired lawman Bomber Lawrence's explanation for any piece of bad behavior, and Higgins's latest feast of dialogue (after Defending Billy Ryan ) often illustrates Bomber's Law. Recalled to Boston after a 12-month exile in the Massachusetts sticks, sergeant Harry Dell'Appa replaces Bob Brennan on a stakeout of Short Joey Mossi, a reputed mob hit man on whom the police have as yet been unable to pin anything. Going through Brennan's file on Mossi, Dell'Appa finds it suspiciously light; longstanding mutual dislike between the two cops makes it easy for Harry to believe there's something fishy going on. The reason for their antagonism and the results of Dell'Appa's suspicions are revealed in Higgins's preferred style, which favors dialogue--or rather, monologues--over narrative descriptions. The simple, precise plot constantly gets lost in the author's urge to reproduce the exact cadences of his characters' speech; individual sentences are accurate, realistic and very well written, but the endless digressions and stories within the story are rambling and undramatic, especially when compared to the dialogue that is directly plot-motivated. Still, with an author who uses monologues like arias to create atmosphere and character, plot naturally takes second place. Perhaps that's Higgins's Law: He did it for the dialogue. BOMC selection. (Nov.)