cover image LEGENDS OF WINTER HILL: Cops, Con Men, and Joe McCain, the Last Real Detective

LEGENDS OF WINTER HILL: Cops, Con Men, and Joe McCain, the Last Real Detective

Jay Atkinson, Author . Crown $24 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4000-5075-8

Bestselling author Atkinson (Ice Time ) has produced an unhappy blend of hagiography and true-crime reporting as he presents the story of Joe McCain, a classic old school Boston detective, as well as Atkinson's own experiences tagging along as a private eye with the firm McCain founded. Clichés and labored writing frequently distract from the narrative and impart a false urgency to a fairly run-of-the-mill story ("It's 4:00 A.M. and as black as a dirty cop's soul..."; "Our sandwiches arrive, the blunt, aromatic bread sliced into triangles..."). McCain certainly comes across as a dedicated cop, open to bending rules and risking his life and professional reputation in the cause of truth and justice, but the subtitle's hyperbole will probably be viewed as insulting by the many dedicated professionals still serving the public throughout the country's police departments. The pedestrian cases Atkinson describes will add little to most readers' knowledge; those interested in thoughtful ruminations about what being a private investigator involves would be better served by tracking down a copy of Josiah Thompson's Gumshoe. Gratuitous literary references fit awkwardly with gritty descriptions of street brawls and mob hits, and leave the impression that the author—whose knowledge of McCain is all secondhand—found himself with less material, and less material of significance, than he had anticipated. Agent, Peter McGuigan. (Mar.)