Back in the run-and-gun days of the mid-1990s, when a young Billy Graves worked in the South Bronx as part of an aggressive anti-crime unit known as the Wild Geese, he made headlines by accidentally shooting a ten-year-old boy while struggling with an angel-dusted berserker on a crowded street. Branded as a loose cannon by his higher-ups, Billy spent years enduring one dead-end posting after another. Now in his early forties, he has somehow survived and become a sergeant in Manhattan Night Watch, a small team of detectives charged with responding to all post-midnight felonies from Wall Street to Harlem. Mostly, his unit acts as little more than a set-up crew for the incoming shift, but after years in police purgatory, Billy is content simply to do his job.
Then comes a call that changes everything: Night Watch is summoned to the four a.m. fatal slashing of a man in Penn Station, and this time Billy’s investigation moves beyond the usual handoff to the day tour. And when he discovers that the victim was once a suspect in the unsolved murder of a twelve-year-old boy-a savage case with connections to the former members of the Wild Geese-the bad old days are back in Billy’s life with a vengeance, tearing apart enduring friendships forged in the urban trenches and even threatening the safety of his family.
There is no way out for Billy except to live with a flawed conscience, as he must live with his morally compromised colleagues and his psychologically damaged wife. Yet he will take solace where he can, as in the accidental resolution of a crime on Madison Avenue: Billy decides that “it was a reasonably happy ending.”
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However, the book kept expanding and became like any other book I’ve written, so looking back, I wish I hadn’t used a pen name.” I wish he hadn’t, too, but Richard Price by any name is still Richard Price.
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“The Whites” is a work of reportage as much as it is a work of fiction. That’s what makes it important. It tells it like it is. It provides insight and knowledge, both rare qualities in the killing fields of the crime novel. It’s a book that makes you feel that Price has circled the murders at this detective’s side and in the process really gotten to know a city.
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