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Posted July 16, 2010
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The thrilling police crime novel Hostile Takeovers comes out slugging right from the get go. "Lips" Beasley, Frank Leal's informant gets wacked. The adventure that the book's author Michael A. Black takes Leal and Olivia Hart on is an intriguing fifteen rounds of events that are raw and suspenseful. When "Lips'" body is found, Leal sets out on a mission that is derailed by the radio bandits.
This character driven, emotional and true to life novel only gets better when a drive-by shooting and a life threatening illness happens to two of the most important women in Leal's life, respectively. To add insult to injury, at the sound of the bell, Leal takes center ring as an unexpected ten count comes into play with the sudden illness of his best friend Sean O'Herlieghy.
Speaking objectively as a thirty year law enforcement veteran of the San Diego Police Department, and former brown belt student of the martial arts, I know all about the reach of the long arm of the law. However, Michael Black shows us the comparable reach by Leal's opponents.
On this punching bag, all the highs and lows were hit with expert technique and continued solid throughout. At the speed bag ending, this well crafted story's timing will have you at the rope boundaries, as it ties together nicely in an action packed crescendo.
Sergeant Frank Leal isn't exactly having a smooth time in his life or career at the moment. "Hostile Takeovers," the second novel in Michael A. Black's police procedural series featuring partners Leal and Olivia "Ollie" Hart, will pique your interest from the very start.
While Leal is on a stakeout, his informant in a drug turf war turns up dead, Louis "The Lip" Beasley's ear cut off by the hit man who iced him. Saddled with an inexperienced investigator (Howard Lindsey) as his temporary partner, things can only get worse for Leal both on the job and off.
Frank is more than a good cop, he's a decent human being who feels a responsibility in finding Beasley's killer. Before he can get a foothold, Lt. Dexter Card makes it clear The Lip's case takes a backburner to those with higher clearance potential and even better press. Reports and headlines are what matter most to Lieu, regardless of how the morally motivated Leal feels.
The drug lords and their diametrically opposed bodyguards are squaring up to shed blood in their war to win the streets, while Leal and several of his police compatriots are assigned to break a ring of violent robberies by the Radio Bandits. Frank's doing as well as he can' despite being pulled in a few directions.
All the while, Ollie Hart is stuck on a special detail in nearby Robertsville, prompting Leal to lobby his captain (Cpt. Sean O'Herlieghy) for her return to Investigations. Robertsville isn't all it seems, either, with its mayor initially providing some comedic counterpoint to the escalating danger, despite his hiding something much darker behind his New Orleans' style restaurant.
Personal issues for Leal and Hart will not quietly lie in the background as they struggle with their respective assignments. After an attempt on her life, Leal does his best to ensure the safety of his girlfriend, Sharon Devain, an assistant state's attorney who's ambushed outside the courthouse. Body-builder Hart, while training as hard as she can for the next meet, uncovers a health issue that could spell tragedy and end her competitions for good.
The storylines here are logically woven into a book that will have you quickly hooked and eagerly turning pages. Black's style strongly reminded me of his fellow cop-turned-author Joseph Wambaugh, especially in his manner of capturing the essence of each character's personality. Every player in this tight, well-written procedural speaks with a clear voice. There's even a moment or two reminiscent of Wambaugh's "The Choir Boys," which I found extremely appealing.
Black has plot, pacing and detail down to a fine science here, but he has another forte: writing relationships. When his characters interact, such as Leal and Devain, it's very genuine - no picture perfect solutions, just real people with their own emotions about what's taking place around them. I find that aspect of his work absolutely refreshing; he gives his characters room to act and react appropriately.
You'll want to keep turning pages to experience how a cop on the streets crafts an ending which leaves absolutely no loose ends, providing more than enough action near the end to have you on the edge of your seat. It's gritty, it's real - the Radio Bandits were based on an actual case - and you won't want to miss this novel.