Hornet’s Nest by Patricia Cornwell

a hornet substitutes for the apostrophen in hornet's nestPatricia Cornwell’s Hornet’s Nest is a police procedural that turns that mystery novel sub-class upside down and inside out.

Cornwell sets the story in “the hornet’s nest of America,” Charlotte, NC, where the two top cops are women. Chief Judy Hammer is cool, collected, 50-ish professional who job of running the department includes being its public face.

Chief Deputy Virginia West, 42, is less cool and collected but no less sexy or less committed to her job.

Hammer has gotten permission from the city to allow Andy Brazil, the new police reporter for the Charlotte Observer, to ride along on police calls. Hammer orders West to take Brazil with her and to make sure he gets to see action. There is plenty of action, including what appears to be a series of brutal murders of businessmen in town for short stays.

Cornwell has plotted her story so readers have all the clues they need to be prepared for every surprise she throws in. She keeps her focus on personalities and their reactions, which reminded me of cops I saw when I worked a newspaper police beat.  Parts of the story are laugh-out-loud funny, others tragic.

Hornet’s Nest feels true.

Hornet’s Nest by Patricia CornwEll
G. P. Putnam. ©1996. 377 p.
1997 bestseller #10; my grade: A

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

The Glitter Dome isn’t gold

The title of The Glitter Dome is set in glittering type
The title is covered in glitter.

The Glitter Dome is another of ex-cop Joseph Wambaugh’s police anti-procedurals.

Like The Choirboys, Dome is about cops doing things cops are supposed to keep from happening.

The main story is about partners Al Mackey and Martin Welborn, career cops old enough to be eyeing retirement hopefully. They have just been assigned to clear the murder of Nigel St. Clair.

Al and Marty have cleared other murders by arranging proof that the victim killed himself.

This time, however, they can’t find any way pass the shooting off as murder.

Marty gets interested in trying to solve the crime.

Meanwhile Gibson Hand and Buckmore Phipps are walking their beat when ball of clay thrown in an artists’ studio knocks Phipps’s hat off.

In the studio, a Marine modeling for the artists has a note in his pocket that says Nigel St. Clair and a phone number.

Overlapping coincidences lead to the cops solving the murder.

Wambaugh milks his story for laughs, but cop humor is pretty much that of sixth grade boys: Funny if you’re a sixth grader.

The characters are drawn in broad strokes: Only Marty emerges as a person.

The rest of the cops are people you don’t want to know.

The Glitter Dome by Joseph Wambaugh
William Morrow. ©1981. 299 p.
1981 bestseller #9. My grade: B

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

The Choirboys are no angels

The Choirboys in blue carry billy clubs like this one.

Author Joseph Wambaugh knows cops. He worked 14 years for the Los Angeles Police Department until, with two novels and a nonfiction book to his credit, he quit to write full time.

The Choirboys is a about five sets of partners working the LAPD night shift. They are an oddly-assorted bunch, including military veterans, college graduates, do-gooders and do-others-first types.

They have nothing in common except the shared misery of doing a thankless job directed by incompetent supervisors for a public that hates their guts — and choir practice.

Choir practice is what the boys in blue call their weekly booze and broads bacchanals in MacArthur Park.

Officially, choir practice doesn’t happen because nothing LAPD officials refuse to admit happens, happens.

The guys in the patrol cars are on their own with disastrous results.

Less a novel than a collection of episodes, without Wambaugh’s frequent references to the shooting that would happen later The Choirboys would hardly pass for a novel: 10 main characters are about eight too many.

Wambaugh gets the details right, though. The topics of conversation and the language remind me of working the police beat as a newspaper reporter—and of why I hated working the police beat.

Cops are not choir boys.

The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh
Delacorte Press ©1975 346 p.
1975 bestseller #1. My grade: B

©2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni