Mysterious Book Report The WhitesThe Whites by Richard Price

Henry Holt, $28.00, 333 pages, ISBN 978-0-8050-9399-5

In a well-run, perfectly organized society, no crime would go unsolved, no criminal would go unpunished and no victim would go without redress. Perhaps, if indeed such an exemplary place existed, there wouldn’t be any crime or criminals.

. . . But of course we don’t live in anything close to a utopian ideal. Our world is, in fact copiously supplied with miscreants of all shapes and sizes and their misdeeds range from the asininely petty to the horrific: crimes against all of humanity.

. . . And although we’d like to believe otherwise, here’s three essential truths about law enforcement: most crimes are not punished; crimes aren’t solved with forensics; informants are the key to catching the perpetrators. The real heartbreaker is that nationally, despite the best efforts of law enforcement, Forty percent of all murders go unsolved. It’s really scary when another category gets added in —murders that are solved, but the killers get away scot-free because witnesses recant their testimony, disappear or die because of fear, intimidation or murder . . . and lawyers, who are able to impeach the testimony of eyewitnesses, or get the case thrown out of court on a technicality. Those are the atrocities that leave hard-working, honest and dedicated homicide detectives frustrated, depressed and ulcerated. The bad ones go unpunished, and free to kill, rape or maim again while the victims are denied the justice that society . . . and the law promises all its citizens. The cases are whitewashes, they’re every cops nightmare . . . and some become obsessions.

The Whites, by Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt, is about four such cases. They’re throwbacks to an earlier time in the mid-1990s, when a team of New York City detectives known as the “Wild Geese” were imposing their own unfettered brand of run-and-gun law enforcement with the unstated blessings of the mayor, police commissioner and the entire cop hierarchy . . . down to the level of precinct Captain. Heads were busted and the law was enforced—crime stats went down—civilian groups howled, but flying squads rolled on, and over, whatever was in the way. Then Billy Graves, a member of the Flying Geese working the South Bronx, accidentally shots and killed a ten year old boy while fighting a crazed felon, crazed and high on PCP . . . angel dust. Billy is demoted and somehow survives for another twenty years in the NYPD. Now, he’s a sergeant, in charge of the Manhattan Night Watch, a small group of detectives who respond to all felonies occurring after midnight until eight a.m., from Wall Street to Harlem. Mostly they organize the cases for the incoming day shift, and Billy’s okay with that, just hoping to make it to retirement. But then a murder at Penn Station brings back the bad old days and several cases involving the ones who got away . . . the Whites . . . who are being murdered one by one, forcing Billy Graves to re-examine a past he doesn’t want to face, with implications in the present that create unbearable moral and legal problems better left alone. The Whites has an intricate plot, great dialogue and a twisted, complex moral dilemma that will have you loving this dynamic new series.


John Dwaine McKenna