Picks and Pans Review: The Blue Mirage

updated 10/15/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/15/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Joseph D. McNamara

The first weeks on the job have been rough for Chief of Police Fraleigh in Silicon City, Calif., initial site of this dead-on crime novel. First, a SWAT operation becomes a fiasco. Fraleigh's love-romps with a lady politico aren't doing him a world of good either and could end up costing him his new post.

Then there's the little sting operation that his department is running out of a bar and grill. Fishing for minnows. Fraleigh finds himself battling large, criminally inclined sharks. And just when life looks bleakest, the sting operation leads him home, temporarily, to New York City—where Fraleigh confronts some uncomfortable memories, including a father trying to inch his way up the bureaucratic ladder and a brother, Jack, who accuses Fraleigh of being a stoolie:

" 'Well, you should be proud, you courageous scumbag. You're a real team player. Gave up your own father.'

" 'Jack, you don't know what the hell you're talking about.' He hit me before I could get out of the chair. I fell back against the wall, regaining my balance as he came at me. He was heavier and stronger and the cluttered living room gave me no opportunity to outmaneuver him. But a week's frustration boiled up in me. I moved toward him. I finally had someone to hit, my brother."

The Blue Mirage is as immediate as a night in a holding pen. The dialogue is sharp, the cops are characters, not caricatures, and the police situations are on the mark. McNamara, 55, has great credentials: Author of two other Fraleigh novels, he also is police chief of San Jose, Calif., holds a Ph.D. from Harvard and, in his early years, walked a beat in Harlem. Though not yet in Joseph Wambaugh's narrative league, he has improved with every book he has written. Score one for the chief. (Morrow, $19.95)

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