Friday, June 27, 2014

Review of To Die in Beverly Hills by Gerald Petievich (Arbor House, 1983)

Detective Travis Bailey knows that he has a plumb gig working in Beverly Hills.  The police department are well resourced and the violent crime rate is low.  As a crooked cop running a team of burglars he also has access to some very rich homes.  US Treasury Agents Charlie Carr and Jack Kelly run a different kind of beat.  When Travis tips them off that a state witness in one of their cases against a senior mafia figure is the target of a hired hitman the three of them stake out the banker’s home.  However, the afterhours visitor is one of Travis’s team of thieves and he’s soon dead and Kelly seriously wounded.  Carr senses that Travis set them up for an unknown reason and he’s determined to get justice for his partner.  Travis is equally committed to continuing to live a good but crooked life.  The two men are soon locked in a high stakes game of cat and mouse.

To Die in Beverly Hills charts the battle of wills between a laconic US Treasury Agent and a vain, corrupt cop.  Charlie Carr isn’t interested in career progression or conforming to social expectations, he just wants to catch the bad guys.  It’s an attitude that has got him regularly shifted between offices and frustrates his long-term girlfriend.  Travis Bailey is a sociopath and social climber who lives beyond his means, uses his job to spot potential targets for his crew of burglars and fences, and treats women as sex objects.  Petievich provides an in-depth characterisation of both men as they circle round each other, the former looking to bring the latter to justice.  They are each surrounded by a band of engaging secondary characters who are each flawed in some way.  Beverly Hills provides an interesting back drop and the plot nicely unfolds as Carr slowly unpicks Bailey’s scheming, scams and crimes, but the key strength of the book is the characterization.  Overall, an engaging read about a cop who’ll go to any lengths to  protect his position and another whose prepared to match and catch him.

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