Written by Kevin G Chapman — Deadly Enterprise is the second Mike Stoneman novel after last year’s Righteous Assassin. Stoneman is an NYPD homicide detective recovering after nearly dying at the hands of the man the press called the Righteous Assassin. He is held in high regard by his colleagues for his loyalty and work ethic, and much like Harry Bosch, for Stoneman either they all count or no-one counts.
Stoneman is receiving physiotherapy for the stab wound to his shoulder and not fit to resume active service. His love affair with an attractive coroner provides some distraction but a man like Stoneman needs the department as much as the department needs him. His partner, Jason Dickson, has been temporarily paired with a rookie detective while Stoneman kicks his heels, and the novice pair have been assigned two cases, one of which is high-profile while the other very much isn’t.
The high-profile murder is that of a Latino Bodega owner named Raul Rosario, who was assaulted and robbed as he closed up his shop for the night. The mayor is concerned about the racial angle to the case and wants a black detective leading the investigation. Dickson’s new partner, Ray McMillan, fits that demographic and the detectives are given the case despite another team already having begun the investigation.
The second case involved the body of an unidentified young woman found floating face-down in the East River. She had a head injury and a lot of heroin in her system. She was probably a junkie, possibly a prostitute and definitely white; all of which made her a low-priority case for Dickson and McMillan. Only the observation from the coroner that it is unusual for a junkie to only have one injection mark stands out in the case, and both detectives are far from convinced the poor girl was actually murdered. Maybe she was the tragic victim of her own lifestyle, falling and banging her head while high then slipping into the river unconscious.
I like the slightly old school feel of Deadly Enterprise. The title is decidedly pulp and gives a good hint as to the kind of story contained within – fast-paced, thrilling and heavy on action. The detectives may be rough around the edges but for the most part are committed and loyal, and succeed despite the cynicism of their bosses.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the author has a background in law enforcement. The scenes of cops going about their daily business, whether it be how they relate to one another, or talking through the next stages of their investigation, are amongst the strongest in the book. In particular, the meeting at roll call where the mayor’s deputy calls for a black investigator to be assigned the Rosario case feels especially authentic.
The finale, featuring gunplay in a deserted hotel between the three detectives and an unknown number of criminals, finishes the book off with a bang and would make a great scene if they ever make a Stoneman movie.
What’s missing I feel in order to make a very good book a stand out is some further characterisation particularly to Stoneman. Why is he so driven? Bosch, for example, has his own darkside, and seems Stoneman slightly too much of an everyman to truly convince. I would also like to have seen more made of his romance with the coroner.
No matter, I don’t get the sense that Deadly Enterprise is meant to reinvent the wheel, and nor does it need to when it does such a good job of entertaining the reader.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars