Review

The Front

by Patricia Cornwell

THE
FRONT is the second police procedural in Patricia Cornwell’s
new At Risk series. It stars Massachusetts state police
officer Win Garano and his boss, District Attorney Monique Lamont,
a megalomaniac who is always looking for a crisis or a mission that
will propel her into the spotlight. Here, she wants to focus on
what she perceives is the deterioration of the state’s
neighborhoods. And what better way to accomplish all of her goals
than to solve a very cold case?

Since she has jurisdiction over all the homicides in Massachusetts,
Lamont sends Garano to Watertown, where the rape and murder of a
blind young British woman has never been solved. Not only does
Lamont expect him to work the 45-year-old case, she wants him to
prove her theory: that the Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, killed
Janie Brolin. Of course no one ever actually proved he was guilty
of any of the murders he was suspected of committing, and while his
DNA is available, the woman’s is not. Nevertheless, he makes
the trip and learns he will be working with “Stump,”
the lead detective in Watertown.

Garano often wonders why she works as a cop when she could retire
and run her very successful imported cheese, wine and fresh food
culinary boutique. That’s where he finds her when he arrives
in Watertown. Stump is furious because she doesn’t want to
work this case, much less with Garano, and hates Lamont. But she
and Garano have a friendly adversarial relationship, and they
retire to the back room of the shop to talk: “Why Watertown?
That’s what you should be curious about,” she tells
him. The case is “worth more than one thing. She has other
agendas. It’s also about the FRONT … Friends,
Resources, Officers, Networking Together … a coalition [that
is giving law enforcement communities the opportunity to rely] less
and less [on] the state police.” Lamont hates these people
and figured out a way to diminish what they’re trying to do
by making it look as though they can’t solve this or any
other cold case.

A short time later at New Scotland Yard, Detective Superintendent
Jeremy Killien is ruminating about why “the commissioner [has
dropped] a bloody bomb on him. An unsolved forty-five year old
murder that didn’t even occur in the UK.” Of course
Lamont called London, spoke to the commissioner, and sold him on
the idea of shining an international spotlight on the Brolin case.
“She already has extravagant publicity planned, including a
BBC special that she guarantees would air if [the Brits]
participate.” Killien is very skeptical.

In a discussion with his boss, he is told, “When she first
approached the Yard … I had the matter looked into, which
included finding out something about her. Just the usual checks
… and we’ve come up with a disturbing bit of
information --- not about the case … but about Lamont herself
and cash transactions and donations that have come to the attention
of the U.S. Treasury Department. Turns out her name is in the
Defense Intelligence Agency’s database…”

While spinning her webs of intrigue from her ivory tower, Lamont is
probably unaware that “she is on a no fly list … [also]
a sizeable contribution she … made to a children’s
relief fund in Romania … is suspected of trafficking in
orphans, supplying them to Al-Qaeda so they can be used as suicide
bombers,” the commissioner tells Killien. He continues by
saying that this is a great opportunity to investigate Lamont
without her knowledge.

While these plans are coming to fruition, the investigation into
Janie Brolin’s murder is ongoing. Garano and Stump are
brainstorming when Garano explains to Stump that the neighborhood
where Brolin was killed used to be home to mobsters. He asks her if
she ever thought about why no real crime, especially a murder, was
committed on those streets. As he’s trying to debunk
Lamont’s Boston Strangler theory, he impresses upon Stump
that he believes a cover-up was put in place, “a team effort
… collusion” to hide the machinations of The Mob and
protect their territory. He asks her if, knowing this, she believes
that “some Boston Strangler lowlife [would’ve] dared
step foot anywhere near Janie Brolin’s apartment.” If,
he continues, DeSalvo was so incredibly stupid as to wander into
that neighborhood, is it really possible that he would have gotten
out in one piece?

As the narrative unfolds and Garano continues his task, he feels as
if has entered a maze with no exit. Will he ever find what he is
after? How will he know if he does? Nothing in this case seems to
be what it appears. Patricia Cornwell, best known for her Kay
Scarpetta novels, has turned a new corner in her writing career
with these At Risk novellas --- stories scaled back a bit
and focused on character as well as plot. She told an interviewer:
“…the Garano books, the stories, must have a lot of
horsepower but be very tight … no wasted space or weight and
an intensely fun ride.” And she’s right. Fans and new
readers will certainly enjoy this change of pace.

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 22, 2011

The Front
by Patricia Cornwell

  • Publication Date: May 20, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0399154183
  • ISBN-13: 9780399154188