Red on Red

( 23 )

Overview

The author of the celebrated memoir Blue Blood (“May be the best account ever written of life behind the badge.” —Time) delivers a mesmerizing, relentless thriller that rings with the truth of what it takes to be an NYPD detective. Nick Meehan is introspective, haunted, and burned out on the Job. He is transferred to a squad in the upper reaches of Manhattan and paired with Esposito—a hungry, driven cop who has mostly good intentions but trouble following the rules. The two develop a fierce friendship that plays ...

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Red on Red

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Overview

The author of the celebrated memoir Blue Blood (“May be the best account ever written of life behind the badge.” —Time) delivers a mesmerizing, relentless thriller that rings with the truth of what it takes to be an NYPD detective. Nick Meehan is introspective, haunted, and burned out on the Job. He is transferred to a squad in the upper reaches of Manhattan and paired with Esposito—a hungry, driven cop who has mostly good intentions but trouble following the rules. The two develop a fierce friendship that plays out against a tangle of mysteries: a hanging in a city park, a serial rapist at large, a wayward Catholic schoolgirl who may be a victim of abuse, and a savage gang war that erupts over a case of mistaken identity.
 
Red on Red captures the vibrant dynamic of a successful police partnership—the tests of loyalty, the necessary betrayals, the wedding of life and work. Conlon is a natural and perceptive storyteller, awake to the ironies and compromises of life on the Job and the beauty and brutality of the city itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

"Perhaps the best account ever written about life behind the badge" is what Time Magazine wrote about Edward Conlon's Blue Blood memoir about his life as an NYPD detective. Now Conlon turns to fiction and in his hand, a crime thriller gains rarely seen dimensions of depth and poignancy. Red on Red tracks crimes and their resolution, but its percolations register through the perceptions of two radically dissimilar, yet oddly compatible. Attentive readers will be drawn as much to their foibles and predilections as to their realistically portrayed cases. One talented new genre writer to watch closely; definitely worth recommending.

From the Publisher
“Wise, wry, and intelligent . . . possibly the best cop novel ever.”—Lee Child
 
“A big, daring, psychologically complex story—passionate and poignant, pulsating with authenticity and street smarts, yet lyrical and literary—this is the cop novel for everyone who reads books.”—Joseph Wambaugh
 
“Extraordinary . . . Mr. Conlon, already showing a mature novelist’s skill, has produced an accomplished work full of wisdom and adrenaline, contemplation and action, pride and regret.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Riveting . . . Conlon has used all-too-humane detectives, biting wit and the rhythmic slang of the streets to create a brilliant police novel.”—The Star-Ledger
 
 “Conlon is a gifted writer, surefooted on this terrain, drawing on personal NYPD experience to immerse the reader in the job. . . . [Nick] Meehan is a powerful character, realistic in his wry, existentialist approach and deeply sympathetic.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
Named One the Best Novels of the Year by Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
NYPD detective Conlon, author of the memoir Blue Blood, turns to fiction with this ambitious, sprawling epic of police life. Nick Meehan, a New York City detective slipping into mid-career burnout, takes a special case for Internal Affairs to investigate a suspected dirty cop. Meehan and his new detective partner, Esposito, look into a variety of other cases, including the apparent suicide of a recently arrived Mexican immigrant woman, gangland slayings by rival drug dealers (called "red on red" or criminal on criminal killings), and a serial rapist. In between the crime solving, Conlon examines the personal lives of his two main players, the subtle alliances and loyalties, the emotional tolls, the temptations, the shades of gray inherent to police work. The pace may be slower than the average thriller, but this expertly crafted novel will appeal to readers of literary crime masters such as George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Richard Price. (Apr.)
Library Journal
NYPD detective Conlon follows up his first-class memoir, Blue Blood, with this superb first novel. Set in upper Manhattan's Dominican-dominated Washington Heights, it is a police procedural with a potent mix of strong story line, police jargon, crisp dialog, black humor, bleakness, gangs, drugs, shootings, murders, and suicide, with complicated romances thrown in. The protagonists are the detective duo of Meehan (Irish American) and Esposito (Latino), who grow closer as they interact with and react to each other during an intensive and widening investigation of a suicide, multiple murders, and an undercover operation to trap a serial rapist. Esposito is drawn to action, exertion, and excitement, while Meehan is more introspective, cerebral, and somber (well-known Irish traits!). Former cop and author Joseph Wambaugh (The Onion Field) has praised this book, and it is easy to see why. The only weakness is Esposito's idealized marital philandering and an unrealistic portrayal of a 13-year-old girl. VERDICT This superb debut novel has all the prerequisites of a best seller. It is authentic, gritty, bleak, fast-paced, and lyrical. [Author tour; library marketing; see Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/10.]—Seamus Scanlon, Ctr. for Worker Education, City Coll. of New York
Kirkus Reviews - Kikus Reviews

Nick Meehan isthe job, the quintessential New York City PD detective, also one who's ironic and self-contained, intelligent and driven. And troubled.

Meehan and his new partner, the hard-charging Esposito, are dispatched to investigate an apparent suicide in Inwood Hill Park. Meehan has been granted a preferred assignment, but only by accepting a troubling caveat. Meehan is to report on Esposito for the Internal Affairs Bureau. No cop likes a rat, and Meehan doesn't need the IAB's pressure added to worries about a failing marriage and a frail father. At the scene, the detectives confront Ivan Lopez, who reported the body, but his story is shaky, and Meehan is troubled. The next call takes the partners to the scene of a shooting. The victim has been murdered with a shotgun, leading to an incorrect identification. It's not Malcolm Cole, drug dealer and possible killer. It's his brother. Now the detectives are caught between Cole and a Dominican gang with major ambitions. With the pensive and self-aware Meehan doubting his own judgment, Esposito leads the way though a series of maneuvers, some legal, some not, and many skirting department rules, that land the pair in a gun battle at a Dominican gang funeral and then at a clandestine meeting with Cole at which a rogue IAB agent appears. Meanwhile, Ivan Lopez dogs Meehan, wanting help with his teenage daughter, Grace, either the victim of a gang rape or a participant in an orgy. Conlon (Blue Blood,2004) is a gifted writer, surefooted on this terrain, drawing on personal NYPD experience to immerse the reader inthe job, a milieu far more gritty and less glamorous than the car chases that pass for police work on screen. Meehan is a powerful character, realistic in his wry, existentialist approach and deeply sympathetic in his relationship with his wife and with Daysi, a Dominican florist, who may represent a second chance.

A first novel sure to make the bestseller lists.

Kirkus Reviews

Nick Meehan isthe job, the quintessential New York City PD detective, also one who's ironic and self-contained, intelligent and driven. And troubled.

Meehan and his new partner, the hard-charging Esposito, are dispatched to investigate an apparent suicide in Inwood Hill Park. Meehan has been granted a preferred assignment, but only by accepting a troubling caveat. Meehan is to report on Esposito for the Internal Affairs Bureau. No cop likes a rat, and Meehan doesn't need the IAB's pressure added to worries about a failing marriage and a frail father. At the scene, the detectives confront Ivan Lopez, who reported the body, but his story is shaky, and Meehan is troubled. The next call takes the partners to the scene of a shooting. The victim has been murdered with a shotgun, leading to an incorrect identification. It's not Malcolm Cole, drug dealer and possible killer. It's his brother. Now the detectives are caught between Cole and a Dominican gang with major ambitions. With the pensive and self-aware Meehan doubting his own judgment, Esposito leads the way though a series of maneuvers, some legal, some not, and many skirting department rules, that land the pair in a gun battle at a Dominican gang funeral and then at a clandestine meeting with Cole at which a rogue IAB agent appears. Meanwhile, Ivan Lopez dogs Meehan, wanting help with his teenage daughter, Grace, either the victim of a gang rape or a participant in an orgy. Conlon (Blue Blood,2004) is a gifted writer, surefooted on this terrain, drawing on personal NYPD experience to immerse the reader inthe job, a milieu far more gritty and less glamorous than the car chases that pass for police work on screen. Meehan is a powerful character, realistic in his wry, existentialist approach and deeply sympathetic in his relationship with his wife and with Daysi, a Dominican florist, who may represent a second chance.

A first novel sure to make the bestseller lists.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385519182
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/20/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 421,647
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward Conlon
Edward Conlon is a detective with the New York City Police Department. A graduate of Harvard, he has published articles in The New Yorker and Harper’s and his work has been included in The Best American Essays. He is the author of a memoir, Blue Blood, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a New York Times Notable Book, and a New York Times bestseller.

From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

Edward Conlon is a detective with the NYPD. A graduate of Harvard, he has published columns in The New Yorker under the byline Marcus Laffey.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin USA.

Good To Know

A few outtakes from our interview with Conlon:

"In college, I acted once. A Beckett play, Krapp's Last Tape, which was a big bite for a first-time actor -- it's a one-man show, lasting nearly an hour. The setup, in the most reductive TV Guide-type summary, is this: an old man listens to a tape-recorded diary he made in his youth. He talks to himself, sometimes, too. That's about it. I wore a gray wig and had to walk like a geezer. There were also bits of silent-comedy slapstick, some of which involved a banana.

"I found acting excruciating in two opposite senses: you're truly alone out there, speaking your lines and making your faces, and at the same time, you feel the audience so completely you might as well be in one big bed with them. You feel every cough as if it were on your neck, every laugh sounds purred in your ear, and every silence brings on a delirium of neurotic speculation: Didn't they hear me? Do they hate me? Does this wig make me look fat? We did the play in a dormitory basement, with 70 or 80 seats, but if it was in Yankee Stadium, I don't think my sense of the crowd would have been less acute. Opening night went well, a blur of adrenaline and nerves. People clapped at the end, and I didn't soil myself.

"The second show was a nightmare, beginning with me. In any production, you have a lot of people doing things for you -- makeup, costume, props, let alone all the coaching and advice, the fidgeting and fuss -- and what begins as luxury turns quickly into seeming a necessity, and from there it becomes a matter of civil right. I had always thought of myself as a fairly self-reliant person, and maybe I am, but it apparently took all of one day and a round of hearty applause to abandon dignity and character altogether. You call this a banana? I can't work with this! In truth, it was a bit off -- we were all tired, things hadn't been set up, all kinds of people kept dropping by to socialize, and nobody had the balls or brains to chase them away. One notorious campus dolt came and wouldn't leave, spouting pompous opinions and pointless advice, in a British accent that make him all the more despicable. I was later intrigued to learn that he was from Staten Island. Not long before curtain, he brayed that he had to leave to get stoned, and the show went on.

"It wasn't bad, at first. Some bits that got big laughs the first night didn't go over, but there were others that got better response this time around. In general, it felt a little more forced and mechanical, less felt. And then there was a cough, and a lot more coughing, which spreads in a crowd like an epidemic. I had to geezer-walk backstage at one point, and two people left, in a hurry. I heard every footstep and hated them. You bastards! So what if this stinks! You couldn't wait another fifteen minutes? For a moment, it seemed like a real choice: finish the play, or hunt them down. I finished the play, quickly, out of contempt. When people clapped at the end, I thought they were kidding.

"After the audience had left, and I finished cursing them, it was pointed out to me that the sudden illness in the audience was not respiratory but gastro-intestinal. The Staten Islander had thrown up, and whoever was sitting next to him had waited until the backstage bit to haul him off. The rest of the audience had sat around a puddle of puke to watch the end of the play, which was very sporting of them.

I would never again wonder why actors were crazy."

"When I was a kid, my family would go out on my uncle's boat, around the city and up the Hudson. I remember seeing Hart Island, just off the Bronx in the Long Island Sound. Hart Island is New York City's Potter's Field, where unknown and unclaimed people are buried. The bodies are ferried over from City Island, and inmates are ferried over from the city jail at Rikers Island for the burial detail. Somewhere, there must be minutes from a 19th-century city council meeting that read, ‘All right, unless anyone has an even more eerie and mythological way to go with this, we're agreed?' My uncle, a cop in the Harbor Patrol, would visit the island to wander around. The thought of a picnic on the bones of 800,000 lost souls struck him as a fine thing. It didn't strike my father that way, and though I don't recall if my family ever disembarked there on one of our weekend trips, I suspect we did not.

"The place stuck with me, though, and I wrote a long piece about it that was the first story I had in The New Yorker. I didn't know anyone there. I showed up at the place with the manuscript, asked for an editor who was an acquaintance of a friend, threw it at him, and ran. It was a long story, some 60 pages in manuscript, largely because Hart Island is run by the Department of Corrections and it was months before I got there. I wrote about a detective at Missing Persons and a forensic anthropologist at the morgue. I talked to the coffin manufacturer. When I got to the island, I traced back one of the bodies, and found out how he'd ended up there. In any case, it was good work for me as a writer -- this was before I was a cop -- because I learned that, as a tactic, in dealing with the government or anyone else, it's a better thing to just show up.

"Not long after, I received a letter from a woman in Paris. She said that she had grown up in the Bronx, not far from where I lived, and that her father died when she was a young child, five or six years of age. No one in her family would ever speak of it, and now no one who knew what had happened was still alive. She had children of her own who approached adulthood, and she wanted to know what had happened. I believe that birth and death certificates are public information, and at the same time, you can't just go shopping for these documents. You'd think I'd know more now, after a decade as a cop, but I still don't. I did know that if I put on a suit and asked for them, with a brusque but cordial tone, my chances of obtaining them were better. At the Bureau of Vital Statistics, as I believe it is called, they provided me with the death certificate, from which I learned that the woman's father had committed suicide on New Year's Eve. Though that bare fact is bleak enough, by comparing the minimal information on the document with that of the woman's letter, I saw that he had hung himself, at home, probably a few yards away from where she slept. As a story, it opened up for me, as a kind of dark wonder, but I had genuine doubts about what to tell the woman. Suicide can be contagious, and it runs in families, and I imagined the old news escaping from the envelope like a virus when she opened it. Still, she had a right to know, and I wrote her to say what happened. I didn't expect a thank you. I didn't get one. I wonder about her sometimes.

"When I'm not working as a cop or writing, I'm immensely lazy. I barely move."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Marcus Laffey
    2. Hometown:
      Bronx, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 15, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bronx, New York
    1. Education:
      Regis High School, New York City, 1983, Harvard College, 1987

Read an Excerpt

ONE

Nick Meehan knew there was more to every story, but he usually didn't want to hear it. He was in the woods, at a presumed suicide, and it was raining. There had to be limits, even if it seemed cold-blooded to set them. If, say, he asked a young man if he'd hit his girlfriend, a "No" might not mean anything, but a "Yes" always did, and Nick wouldn't have to listen much longer. The story would be worth hearing if she'd chased him with a hatchet, but there was no point listening to his sad proofs and sorry protests about how she'd never really loved him. That was another story, maybe true, but what mattered was how the man put his belief into action with a roundhouse right, chipping her tooth with the gold ring she'd bought him for his birthday. She might then wonder whether she had ever loved him, doubting why she'd stolen the money for the ring from her mother's new boyfriend, who tended to walk into the bathroom when she was in the shower. You needed to contain a story like a disease, before it spread. Nick was at a suicide in the park, and it was raining.

What happened was this: The rain had let up in the early evening, and Ivan Lopez had been walking through Inwood Hill Park when the shoe had dropped on him. Inwood, the stalagmite tip of Manhattan, where the Dutch had bought the wild island from the Indians, green since the beginning of time. The shoe, an open sandal with a low heel, had fallen from the foot of a woman who was hanging from a tree. She was half-hidden amid the lower branches of an old oak whose leaves had just begun to turn gold and red. Lopez had given a little shout--"Oho!"--but had regained his breath a moment later and called the police. He had done nothing wrong, he knew, aside from wandering in the woods after dark. He told the first cops that he'd gone there to walk his dog. Lopez didn't see the problem with his story, but even when it was pointed out that he didn't have a dog, he clung to the tale like a child clings to a toy, fearful that if it were taken, nothing would be the same.

Lopez was a slight man, with a put-upon air that made him look older than his thirty-odd years. He would not have agreed with any suggestion that his was a dishonest face, despite his worried, furtive manner. He had other burdens, other troubles. He'd had little experience with the police, but he knew at once that he shouldn't have begun by telling them, "You're not going to believe this, but . . ." Those first seven words were the only ones they seemed to accept, as he stumbled and jumped through his version of events, further jarred by the skeptical questions that seemed to presume he knew the woman's name, where she lived. Two cops had arrived, and then two more, in cars that had rambled over the muddy fields between the street and the woods, with stops and starts and shifts in direction, as if they'd been following a scent. The cops were all larger than Lopez, younger than him, and both facts rubbed against his dignity. He reminded them angrily that he'd tried to be a good citizen in a neighborhood where that quality was not always apparent. The rebuke seemed to have some modest effect on the cops, who withdrew and asked him to wait to speak with the detectives. No one was wrong--not yet, not terribly--but neither side credited the other with good sense or good faith. No one knew what had happened, and as more was said, less was believed.

That was the scene of stalemate the detectives took in when they arrived. One of them was physically robust, emphatic in manner, ready for conflict, the other spare and withholding. More of one, less of the other. The second one, the lesser--Meehan--seemed more sympathetic, and Lopez chose to focus on him when he repeated his account. The audience-shopping instinct was noted with suspicion, and it was the first detective, Esposito, who asked the first question, taking control of the conversation and returning to the earlier sticking point.

"So, where's the dog?"

Lopez exhaled heavily and said he did not know. He knew how it made him sound, but he didn't see the point--or rather, he didn't like it. He didn't like the next question any better, or the man--Esposito--who asked it.

"What kind of dog was it?"

"A brown one," he said, after some hesitation.

"What was the dog's name?"

"Brownie."

That answer came too quickly, and seemed anticipated rather than remembered. Esposito pressed ahead, testy.

"'Brownie.' Where's the leash?"

"I don't have one. What does this have to do with anything? I was walking by and I got hit, out of nowhere--I could have lost an eye or something--and I try to do the right thing, and I get my balls busted by guys who--"

"By guys who what?"

Nick Meehan intruded with a mild and slightly sideways follow-up, and Lopez couldn't tell whether he cared more or less than the first detective, if he were signaling that he shared the joke with Lopez or was playing a new one on him: "You could get a ticket for not having a leash for the dog."

"But you don't believe the dog," countered Lopez, with a jubilant smirk. "You can't write the ticket if you don't believe the dog."

"Touche."

"Que?"

"Exactly!"

Nick didn't believe Lopez, but he was delighted by the oddly theological detour of the conversation. He didn't pretend to be useful, and didn't always want to be. Nick preferred cases that went nowhere, or rather, he was drawn to mysteries that were not resolved with a name typed on an arrest report--funny things or lucky things, glimpses of archaic wonder and terror, where life seemed to have a hidden order, a rhyme. Here, a witness was hanging himself in his story about a hanging woman, and the detectives were becoming entangled.

Esposito stepped heavily through the mud to borrow a flashlight from one of the uniformed cops. When he returned, he shone it back and forth between Lopez's face and the suspended woman, which somehow suggested a line drawn between them, connecting the dots.

"Do you have identification?"

Lopez handed Esposito a driver's license, which Esposito put in his pocket without looking at it. One of the cops began talking to another about the Yankees game, and Lopez looked over at them, irritated. Nick escorted Lopez to the back of their unmarked car, suggesting it might be more comfortable, more private, and situated him in the backseat. Nick sat beside him, not too close, and Esposito took the front passenger seat, leaning back. Nick put a hand on Lopez's shoulder, in a gesture that might have seemed more friendly, had the space not been so confined.

"Thank you. Thank you for calling us," Nick said. "Nobody should end up like that."

"I try to do the right thing."

"You did. Tell me, I'm not much of a dog person myself, just because you gotta walk 'em all the time. How often do you gotta take him out?"

"Three, maybe five times a day."

"That's a lot. How do you have the time? Are you working now?"

"I manage a shoe store. My daughter takes him out, too."

Esposito leaned in, as if he disbelieved that Lopez had much acquaintance with either work or women, and looked down. Lopez's boots were mucked over, like everything else, making it hard to tell much about them. Esposito did not relent. "What's your kid's name?"

"Grace."

The response came without hesitation, as did Esposito's follow-up. "What's your dog's name again?"

The seconds that passed before Lopez spoke were few--three or four--but painful to endure. "Lucky," he said, which was not true in either sense. He squirmed and pleaded, "Can I have my ID back now?"

"Yeah, sure," said Esposito, blithe for a moment before becoming abrupt and demanding again. "Let me see your hands."

"What? My God, this is a bad dream. . . ."

"Wake up, then. The hands. Now."

Lopez looked to Nick for support, but found none. The detectives did not feign anything in their hoary old binary roles--each hard look and kind word was authentic, heartfelt--but all of it was nonetheless deployed for effect, joined to a purpose. Nick took the flashlight from Esposito and turned it on--"Just procedure. Don't worry. Relax."--as Lopez raised his palms for examination, turning them over slowly, to show unblemished, unmarked skin. That, at least, did not lie. He might as well have slept in mittens and kept them on all day. Esposito grunted, noncommittal. Lopez shook his hands as if they'd been dirtied, then pointed outside.

"See? I told you--this is not me! I'm just here, same as you. It was already over, finished, done! This is just this. I don't know why you keep trying to put me in the picture. . . . This is simple--"

Esposito cut him off as he climbed out of the car, disdaining even to look at him as he left. "The funny part is, it coulda been."

Nick thanked Lopez again and asked him to wait there--"It won't be too much longer"--before joining Esposito outside, where they continued their conference beneath the tree. He understood what Esposito had been doing and why, respected its necessity. It wasn't as if Esposito were a bully demanding lunch money. Still, there was something unappealing in the unfairness of the contest, which bothered Nick, and he saw little to be gained from regarding Lopez as an adversary instead of a distraction.

"Lighten up a little on him, would you?"

The request was amiably offered, received with an obliging shrug.

"Whose is this, anyway?" asked Esposito. "Whose turn is it for what?"

"If it's a homicide, it's yours. If it's a suicide, it's mine. And it's a suicide."

"Good. I mean--you know what I mean. This is not my cup of shit. Your case, your call."

Nick did know what he meant. Esposito disliked noncriminal investigations, the runaways and accidental deaths; they could be almost as much work as murders, but there was no contest, no opponent--no bad man to put in handcuffs at the end. Esposito was a fighter, and this fight had already been lost. For him, the dead woman in the tree might as well have been a live cat, a sad situation but not an urgent problem, not one that made his neck stiffen or heart soften. Lopez was the only figure of interest for him, and only because of a professional aversion to certain forms of deceit. Nick could see the impatience gather again in Esposito's face and then recede.

"However you wanna handle it, Nick. But tell me, you don't have a problem with a guy standing by a dead body, telling you lies?"

Nick took the flashlight and shone it upward. The midair fixity of the woman, taut on the tentative line, reminded him of a dog straining against a leash. The rope held, but would not for long. He didn't want to think of dogs, and he contemplated pointing the light accusingly at Lopez, as Esposito had. He pictured holding it under his own chin, as if to tell a campfire story. Which is what Nick was convinced that Lopez had done, making up nonsense because he had been caught sneaking out in the dark. Still, Lopez didn't matter; the woman did. He shut off the light and turned to Esposito to work through the practicalities.

"Say you got a guy, he's on his way to a whorehouse when he witnesses a bank robbery. He's a good witness, your only good witness, but he tells you he was going to church. Do you use him?"

Esposito smiled, taken by the fable, even more appreciative that Nick could disagree with him without argument. "That's why you gotta break him. You get in there and straighten him out. You let him know how it's gotta go. You break him, you avoid the whole problem."

"All right, but you know, it's my analogy here, and you don't get to change it. In my story, he won't break. And my story isn't this story--nobody robbed a bank. I mean, we'll cover the bases, but this guy didn't kill her. Nobody did. Come on. If this guy confessed to killing her, here and now, you'd kick him in the ass, tell him to go home and sleep it off."

"You're right. But his story still matters. It changes things, even if it's not true. And I still might kick him."

"Do me a favor and don't," said Nick, almost sure Esposito was joking about the kick, unready to consider the full meaning of the other remark. "Let's look at this, run through it, worst-case. How did she get up there? She climbed or someone took her. Say it's a homicide. He killed her there? Alive? Not even leopards on the nature shows do that. They kill them first, then they hide the food in the tree, so the lions don't steal it. That didn't happen here."

"Was that on the other night?"

"Yeah."

"I saw that. Not bad. Still, you can't beat Shark Week. . . . I'm glad she's not a floater. They're a pain. You never know with them."

Esposito was right about floaters. They were far worse. You rarely could establish whether they'd jumped, fallen, or been pushed into the water. He and Nick had only worked with each other for a few months, but Nick had learned to follow his partner's trains of thought. Esposito had begun to shift from anger to boredom, disengaging--not that he was often or especially angry, but when he was in the game, he was all in, with all emotional color on display like a peacock's tail. If they'd been at a bar, leaning over drinks, it might have been interesting to puzzle over the situation, to spitball and tease the possibilities among the four categories: homicide, suicide, accident, and natural. They'd talk as if they were playing themselves on TV, looking for the odd detail, the brilliant twist. As it was, the case had the fascination of a flat tire for Esposito. Floaters, leopards, bank robberies--the comparisons had become a way of avoiding the subject instead of illuminating it.

"Anyway. The crime scene is the body, the tree, the ground," Nick reasoned. "The ground's already gone, with the rain, all of us here. The body's the main thing. We'll check it out as best we can. In theory, the tree should have scuff marks from the climb, bits of clothing, whatever trace evidence."

Things rub off on each other. The woman had a bit of tree on her, the tree a bit of woman, commingling in constant, invisible transactions. The oak seemed mournful and uneasy, as the branches shifted and the raindrops splatted from leaf to leaf with a staticky whoosh, a radio station that didn't quite come in. Nick looked at Esposito, and Esposito looked at his watch. They hadn't rubbed off on each other so much just yet.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Interviews & Essays

Edward Conlon on his first novel RED ON RED

When a detective writes a detective novel, one question is inevitable: "How true is this book?" Nothing in Red on Red couldn't have happened, I think, and much did, in one form or another. Parts of the story are a few shades, a few twists removed from events that happened to me, or to cops I know. I don't know if I'm giving away too much by saying that incidents regarding blizzards, bloodhounds, and inappropriate applications of plastic food wrap did not come to me in a dream. Other plot twists represent "what-if's" of wish fulfillment or worst-case scenarios from life on The Job, as we call it, and certain lines of dialogue are remarks that I really wished I'd said at the time.

The question behind the question is whether to believe it. Though I'm tempted to compare the reader to a juror, even a famously cynical Bronx juror, I think the closer parallel is in a cop's relations with an informant. You come across a storyteller who takes you inside a world you want to know about, but you don't know if what you hear is gossip, gospel, or an outright lie. Even if you find your informant credible when he says that Joe No-Neck has a kilo of cocaine and an AK-47 in his closet, you won't know if Joe skipped town the night before or is babysitting his nieces or a pack of angry pit bulls until you knock down his door. It isn't a matter of whether you'll be surprised, but how. An informant figures significantly in Red on Red.

The heart of the novel is the relationship between two detectives, Meehan and his partner Esposito. Meehan is pensive and guarded, burdened by familial failures, and Esposito is a tornado of reckless vitality. One is a bull, the other a china shop. These men come to work each day with very different motivations and limitations, baggage and gifts. Who they are is not supposed to matter as much as what they have to do—investigate crimes—but it always does, somehow. What fascinates me is how people change each other, intentionally or otherwise, through inspiration, generosity, loyalty, or betrayal. That is the true mystery that drew me to write this book, and I won't pretend to have solved it.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 23 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent Psychological Drama

    If you want gripping suspense or fast-paced mystery, don't look here. This story does not move quickly. Instead, it forces readers to take their time, to wander the paths of the main character, to get lost with him, to feel his emotions and to see the minute details in life that many of us so easily overlook.

    Edward Conlon is a cop writing about cops and his inside viewpoint gives readers something new to look at. There is some mystery, some suspense, some police procedural. But, at its heart, this book is one man's journey while finding his place in life. The words are sometimes poetic, sometimes crushing in their realism. Red On Red is a powerful read for those willing to set aside their expectations and lose themselves in the words.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Save Your Money

    Oh my God, there is nothing worse than an "author" who tries to step out of what he his and write as someone else. Conlon is a cop, so why doesn't he write like a cop. I made it through 65 pages and had to stop abusing my eyes and my brain. "The tattered curl of the edges added to the faintness of the praise." What is that? I only wish there was some way to get my money back.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2011

    rating....awful

    this book ls worse than junk.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2011

    Could not put it down. Hope more to follow.

    This New York police thriller had both exciting action and great insight into what seemed like the inner most feelings of real life detectives.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2013

    Yawn!

    This book was SO slow going! I kept hoping it would get better, but it never did. I'm a fast reader normally, but this took much longer than usual. Don't waste your money!

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  • Posted September 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Cops, Love 'Em Or Leave 'Em

    Edward Conlon's novel is very well done. I enjoyed going out with the two partners each day and felt that he conveyed well what the daily life might be like for detectives of experience in New York. Many books have been written about whether the job corrupts the cop or the corrupt become cops. It seems it's more likely the job as cops have to deal with so many obstacles to goodness. Courts, rules, lowlifes, easy money, easy wins, temptation is always at the door. It wouldn't even surprise me if some of Conlon's fellow cops came here and trashed his novel! It's well worth a read, despite the naysayers.

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