“There is no right, and there is no wrong. There just is.”
When I read a blurb for this book comparing it to THE WIRE I had to read it; to prove it true or disprove it, I had no choice. When the book arrived any reservations I had about the comparison were immediately dispelled, as there was a cover quote from David Simon. As someone who keeps a close eye out for my favourite writers doing cover quotes, a David Simon quote was a rare occurrence, particularly for a novel.
While the book isn’t a sweeping look at how a city is affected by crime in its entirety the focus it does take is wire-esque. Set in Brooklyn the novel follows two detectives; one a twenty-plus year veteran who know his neighbourhood inside and out, the other a young cop who has just earned his detective shield. Although this sound like a cliché, believe me it isn’t. It doesn’t even come close to cliché territory.
It is also not a whodunit and there is no mystery to unravel. The book simply follows the day-to-day lives of two detectives. From the petty crimes they have to investigate to those serious to the neighbourhood, but maybe not “TV series worthy” as one of the characters remarks at one point. But even though there is a sense of the mundane to the daily lives of these two detectives the book is far from mundane. It is fascinating, sharp and punchy and you get totally involved in the main characters’ lives.
While the comparison has been made to THE WIRE I was struck by a familiarity with the Vietnam War novel MATTERHORN (which I also think is wire-esque). I can’t put my finger on exactly what makes me connect the two books because there is no obvious similarity. The war of the title is never alluded to in the book. There is though a sense of duty and allegiance to higher command in both books (in spite of justifiable reasons not to be loyal) that permeates through both books and I think this is where the connection lies not only to both books but also THE WIRE.
While I have continued the comparisons the THE WIRE don’t read this expecting characters of the ilk of Stringer, Avon and Omar. Check out Richard Price and George Pelecanos for characters of that vintage. If you enjoyed the police side of THE WIRE and the internal politics and frustrations faced by those wanting to do the right thing (and vice versa) you can’t go wrong with RIZZO’s WAR. And I just looked the author up and there is a new book coming early next year!
You can view my video review here