If you're attracted to the television show "NYPD Blue" but dislike its violence, sex and profanity, you might find THE DEUCE, the first installment in the "Midtown Blue" series, an appealing reading alternative. Author F. P. Lione is actually a married couple --- Frank and Pam Lione. Both are Italian American children of NYPD detectives, and Frank is a veteran of the New York Police Department, which causes the story to resonate with authenticity.
In his tenth year as a cop, Tony Cavalucci works New York City's 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenue, known by old-timers as "the deuce." He's 32, single, out of shape (the amount of food and beverages detailed in this story that he consumes is staggering), and drifting dangerously toward depression. His girlfriend has just run off with her boss, and his partner is out of commission with a knee injury.
Booze helps Cavalucci deal with it all. Lots of booze.
Cavalucci is paired with Joe Fiore, a bona-fide Christian who has a good reputation among the cops, but isn't Cavalucci's preferred choice. As their partnership unfolds, readers glimpse the often mundane and sometimes fascinating and unexpected happenings of police work. There are the burglar alarms that must be checked --- but might be a set-up for a later robbery. The delicate political maneuverings when a state legislator is robbed after cruising for trouble in a questionable part of the city. The embarrassment when a cop upchucks over a "perp." Some "ick" moments occur, such as when a drug dealer intentionally defecates in the police car, so this is not a novel you'll want to read over lunch.
Alongside the police scenes, the Liones paint a compelling portrait of Cavalucci's volatile dysfunctional Italian family, torn apart by divorce. The Christian themes are handled well for readers of faith --- the Christianity is not too preachy, or alternately, not too lightweight. Cavalucci's journey from alcoholic to sober cop is believable and intriguing. Despite the heaviness of several of the themes, there is plenty of genuine humor (Fiore: "Is it hard not to drink at family gatherings?" Cavalucci: "It's hard not to drink before family gatherings!") There are nice threads of romance woven throughout, and a redemptive ending that will please most readers.
A few stumbling blocks occur, however, including a lot of police lingo that is inconsistently explained (EDP, turret lights, perp, collar, etc.). Readers may find themselves wishing for a glossary, such as the ones Dee Henderson incorporates in her "Uncommon Heroes" military series. The Liones also tend to over-detail the mechanics of a character's actions, which can slow the pacing down. Too many sentences begin consecutively with the same word or words ("We had a robbery … We came up negative … We had a robbery…) and many of their sentences are the same length, which can feel stilted and tire the reader. Sometimes, a scene is so rich in detail that the reader bogs down in the description (such as a scene involving a jewelry store).
But these are the types of problems most first novelists wrestle with, and the Liones hopefully will correct them in their next offering. The insider knowledge of the dynamics of the NYPD that the Liones bring to their story is more than apt compensation for these flaws. Fans of police novels should find THE DEUCE a welcome first installment of a promising series.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on January 1, 2005
The Deuce: Midtown Blue Series #1