Robert Andrews is known as an author of espionage thrillers. It is territory he knows well, intelligence work being a significant element of his resume. Andrews was apparently at work on a fifth spy novel when he realized that the world outside of his Georgetown doorstep was what was real to his readers and that the world of foreign intrigue about which he had been writing was an abstraction to them. Andrews also realized that the work of the urban policeman is far more dangerous than that of a soldier or a spy. He accordingly decided to begin writing a series of novels about the police.
A MURDER OF HONOR is the first of what is to be a series of novels featuring Frank Kearney and Jose Phelps, who for 25 years have been a salt-and-pepper team on the DC police force. It was the author's intent to restrict the point of view of the reader to those things that Kearney, and to a lesser extent, Phelps, could see, feel, hear, smell, and touch --- and, more importantly, to make his readers comfortable with the two men. He succeeds quite admirably.
A MURDER OF HONOR finds Kearney and Phelps assigned to investigate the drive-by shooting of Father Robert O'Brien, a popular, no-nonsense priest, whose murder apparently is without motive or reason. The assignment is a de facto punishment; drive-bys largely go unsolved and are low-priority. Kearney and Phelps soon discover, however, that Father O'Brien's murder was hardly random. When they discover a half-million dollars in Father O'Brien's apartment, it becomes obvious that there was much more to the priest's ministry than was first thought. Two more murders, both linked to Father O'Brien's case and a drug war, further complicate matters for the officers, who are under intense bureaucratic and political pressure to close the case. It is not long before their careers, and their lives, are on the line.
Kearney and Phelps are perhaps two of the most interesting and likable detectives in police procedural fiction since the creation of the immortals who inhabit the 87th Precinct. Andrews has a talent for turning a phrase and a fine ear for dialogue and character development, as well as a penchant for straightforward, unambiguous endings. Andrews has promised more of Kearney and Phelps after A MURDER OF HONOR; they cannot come soon enough.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 25, 2011