Skip to main content

Central Park West

Review

Central Park West

I give James Comey credit. Many people believe that his announcement regarding Hillary Clinton's emails in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election helped contribute to her defeat. Others have been upset with him for an entirely different reason. During his tenure as director of the FBI, the Bureau opened the first files on Donald Trump that led to some of the investigations that are still ongoing.

As a result of his public service, Comey finds himself in the unenviable position of having enemies on both sides of the aisle. He could have defended himself in memoirs and in fact has written two books: A HIGHER LOYALTY: Truth, Lies, and Leadership and SAVING JUSTICE: Truth, Transparency, and Trust. Publishing a novel is riskier than recounting history. With his background, you might wonder why he would venture into the crazy world of courtroom fiction and leave himself open to criticism from reviewers.

"...an enjoyable and entertaining crime fiction debut. Comey imparts quite a bit of knowledge about investigative techniques and putting a criminal case together. He has me anticipating the next book he is working on, and I will be the first in line to grab a copy."

Comey was the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the top prosecutorial job in America, before becoming FBI director. His office prosecuted the Gambino crime family and Martha Stewart, and he has faced off against attorney generals and presidents. CENTRAL PARK WEST is a fine first effort. In a recent interview, Comey disclosed that he already has completed a draft of the sequel, so he appears to find the world of John Grisham, Scott Turow and Michael Connelly to his liking. Indeed, he even obtained a complimentary blurb from Connelly, along with other bestselling thriller authors like Harlan Coben and Alafair Burke, both of which appear on the book's front cover.

Comey’s writing style here is simple and direct. He grabs and maintains the attention of his readers in a story that has plenty of plot twists and turns. Like many of the great writers in this genre, he seems comfortable in the five-to-six-page chapter format. He also embraces using material from his personal life. As the title indicates, the book is set in New York, where Comey worked. The lead character is Nora Carleton, a prosecutor in her mid-30s, who is tall and unmarried. Comey’s daughter, Maurene, fits that description and just happens to work in the US Attorney’s office. He acknowledges that using Maurene as a model has been challenging. “The kids are a little creeped out,” he admitted in an interview.

CENTRAL PARK WEST has all of the traditional characters you would find in a courtroom novel. But it proceeds on a dual track with action progressing in both the Manhattan state criminal court and the nearby majestic US District Court. Comey seems to love the pomp and elegance of the federal court system; his portrayal of the state court process is less deferential. The plot blends two stories --- a state-court murder of a former New York governor and the mob hit of a federal witness.

Comey has experienced quite a bit of courtroom action, and his depiction of these scenes is extremely well done. I must avoid spoilers, but there is a wonderful explanation of the hearsay rule that would be very beneficial to any lawyers who might feel the need to brush up on their rules of evidence. And his judges are quite accomplished, though he does occasionally take the opportunity to voice his belief that many federal judges have an inflated opinion of their own talents.

CENTRAL PARK WEST is a worthy first novel, though I have to say that Comey seems fixated on clothing and brands. Yes, they are part of the plot, but some readers might think he has some type of product placement clause in his publishing deal. He also falls too much in love with the New York accent. People in different parts of the country have their own language and grammar quirks. It’s fine to point this out, but I think he goes a bit overboard at times.

However, in no way does any of this detract from an enjoyable and entertaining crime fiction debut. Comey imparts quite a bit of knowledge about investigative techniques and putting a criminal case together. He has me anticipating the next book he is working on, and I will be the first in line to grab a copy.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on June 2, 2023

Central Park West
by James Comey

  • Publication Date: May 30, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 1613164033
  • ISBN-13: 9781613164037