I really enjoyed Lush Life back in 2008 so I was considering reading this one anyway and then the Modern Fiction group chose it for discussion – great! (I have no idea why Price wants to go by Brandt although perhaps he knew it didn’t quite live up to Lush Life.
Same setting, realistic New York cop shop, Manhattan, Billy Graves has been a night shift police detective for several years – he doesn’t like it but he works with a group of men he respects – not for sissies. Billy has his own problems with an RN wife who is scared witless for him and an aging ex-cop father with dementia who lives in their home. He also has two small sons.
Billy has been on a hunt for a certain killer for years. Every cop has their “project” (their “white whale”). The one who “needs” to be punished and the punisher becomes obsessed:
They had all met their personal Whites, those who had committed criminal obscenities on their watch and then walked away untouched by justice . . . .
No one asked for these crimes to set up house in their lives, no one asked for these murderers to constantly and arbitrarily lay siege to their psyches like bouts of malaria.
There are ways I’m reminded of an urban Dave Robicheaux (the series by James Lee Burke) because, although he’s not as close to Faulknerian prose as Burke, Price does a lot of very nice descriptive writing here and there, alternating with excellent dialogue. And the setting is definitely indispensable. The obvious comparison is to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick due to the title and the theme –
The “project” list of Billy’s group starts getting killed and Billy decides to investigate. This is what evolves into serious trouble. The detectives are shown as being real people with their own very real and personal issues including women, booze, drugs, money, etc. They’re humans in an insane world of vengeance.