Monday, May 16, 2011

Review of Officer Down by Theresa Schwegel (Quercus, 2005)

Whilst waiting for her married lover to turn up Samantha Mack (Smack) is called in to cover for a sick colleague. To make things worse she has been teamed up with her former patrol partner, who she feels betrayed her by getting married and swapping shifts. Having met a snitch they proceed to a deserted house to try and arrest a paedophile. They enter without waiting for back-up and walk straight into a trap. She is knocked unconscious and her partner shot dead with her gun. None of the investigating officers believe her story, with the exception of her married lover, a homicide detective. They want her to plead it was an accident. Mack wants to clear her name and catch the real killer. Nobody else though wants a rogue cop running her own investigation.

Officer Down has two key strengths. First is the character development. Samantha Mack has a spiky persona - emotional, impulsive, insecure, confrontational, needy, with a dose of self-loathing. A woman operating it an environment dominated by testosterone-fuelled men, hyped up on stress and sexist banter, she fronts up to any challenge. Her love life is a mess and she’s developing a drink problem. She might not be the most lovable of characters, but she's well penned. The other principal actors are keenly observed. Second, the story is well plotted and told. Schwegel does a good job of portraying the unsettling, doubt and paranoia of Mack’s world as it is turned upside down and she becomes less and less sure of who to trust. There is no sudden revelation and as the truth slowly dawns on her and the reader, Schwegel manages to maintain the tension and work in a couple of nice twists. The pacing has a nice tempo and the dialogue credible. Some of the police procedural elements didn't quite seem right, and Mack makes some dubious decisions, but I'm no expert on Chicago police procedure and the poor decisions were in character. Officer Down is an uncomfortable read at times as Mack crashes about somewhat wildly given her state of mind, but I nevertheless enjoyed it.


Maxine Clarke said...

Great review. I recall this is a series, if I am right, is this the first? I may be getting muddled up with someone else but I thought Quercus picked this up some time after another publisher had published earlier stories in the series?

Rob Kitchin said...

Published by St Martins Minatour in the US first, then by Quercus in the UK a couple of years later. Just looked it up on I've not seen a more polarized set of reviews for a while -

pattinase (abbott) said...

And Theresa is a fabulous person. She's spent the night here a couple times while doing signings. A real treat and a real dish. She has four books out but I am not sure if they are all part of a series.