5 Cop Books that Hit the Target

John Harvey's Darkness DarknessEver wondered what it’s like to guard a crime scene? To chase a suspect down a dark alley, or have shots fired at you? Cops lead a life that’s larger-than-life to most of us, bold and gritty and full of action. If you or someone you know loved Karin Slaughter’s recent thriller Cop Town, these 5 books are sure to please.

Darkness, Darkness, by John Harvey
“Better, as far as they’re all concerned, for Jenny’s body to have stayed where it was, underground.” In England in 1984 the coal miners went on strike, police went undercover to spy on them, and a woman named Jenny Hardwick disappeared. DI Charlie Resnick was on duty at the strike, so 30 years later, when builders discover Jenny’s skeleton under a demolished house, he expects to be called in. What he doesn’t expect is the reluctance of everyone involved—including Jenny’s family—to find her killer. What is it they fear? Fans of realistic, character-based mysteries will love this dip into British history.

400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman, by Adam Plantinga
For the friend or family member who loves detective books and has read ’em all, why not give nonfiction? Plantinga is a sergeant with the San Francisco PD who joined up, he says, because he thought “police work was where some good stories might be found.” Boy, was he ever right. In pithy chapters such as “19 Things Cops Know About High-Speed Chases” and “14 Things Cops Know About Being Among the Dead,” he gives us the straight scoop on what it’s like to protect and serve, dispelling many myths along the way. This book is a must-have for anyone who’s watched The Wire’s famous bullet-recovery scene and wondered, Can cops really do that?

Lush Life, by Richard Price
Speaking of The Wire, did you know Richard Price was one of the screenwriters? Known for his sharp, jazzy dialogue and “street cred,” in Lush Life he brings a whole neighborhood to life: the deli owners, deliverymen, and hip young art students who live shoulder to shoulder with the hustlers and gangbangers of New York’s Lower East Side. It’s a volatile mix. When artist Ike Marcus gets stopped on the street one night, he’s too high on life to care. “Not tonight, my man,” he calmly tells his mugger, and a single, fatal bullet is fired. Add a cop with a score to settle and a witness who lies about calling 911, and you’ve got an unforgettable police procedural.

All the Centurions, by Robert Leuci
Dramatized in the movie Prince of the City, Leuci’s life story is almost too colorful to believe. He joined the NYPD back when cops were still “the biggest, baddest gang in town,” running the city like their own private fiefdom. Officers openly planted weapons and accepted bribes: the only rule, one mentor tells him, is to always “take care of” the sergeant, wink, wink. Promoted to Narcotics, Leuci soon finds the line between right and wrong even hazier. As always with a memoir, what matters most is voice, and Leuci has a great one. Read him and you’ll agree, truth is stranger than fiction.

Death of a Murderer, by Rupert Thomson
Five children were tortured and killed in England’s real-life “moors murders.” The crime sent shock waves through the nation, particularly because the killer was aided by his girlfriend. Death of a Murderer takes place the night the girlfriend has finally died in prison, and policeman Billy Tyler is ordered to guard her body, an assignment he accepts with dread. Evil, it seems, casts a long shadow, and as the hours of his graveyard shift tick by Tyler starts remembering not only the gruesome story of the murders, but incidents from his own past, leading up to the wreckage of his marriage. By dawn, his vision of himself will have utterly changed.

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