New York City has about 36,000 cops. All report to the same chain of command. Philadelphia is surrounded by counties divided into multiple municipalities, each having its own police force with different standards and operations.
Schaffer uses that structure to examine two detectives in a small police force, Frank and Vic. Frank is coming back from leave having been shot and is assigned to work with Vic, an old-fashioned detective. He’s still in pain but Vic won’t let him have any narcotic pain-killers for fear he’ll become a junkie.
The book is a series of vignettes all tied together by their pursuit of Paris, a vicious drug dealer.
Some of the repartee and scenes are LOL funny. The one where they go dumpster diving and have to wade through diaper feces was hysterical. Others are sad as we watch Vic succomb to alcohol. He’s lost his kids in a divorce, most of his pay goes to child support and alimony, and he realizes the only time he really feels alive is when he’s tricking a pedophile into confessing.
Vic spun around and glared at Frank, his eyes red and streaming with tears. "I am sick of being used by everyone around me, Frank. I give everything I have to Danni, and she only ever wants more. It's never enough. I give everything I have to the Chief, and he only shines me on with promises that will never come true. The only time I feel alive is when I'm standing in blood and guts or talking to child molesters, Frank. Don't you see how fucked up that is? For one second, try and imagine how fucked up that is." "Maybe you need a different job." "Do you know why I became a cop? I was curious," Vic said. "I wanted to peek behind the curtain of evil, but what I saw can't be unseen, Frank. No matter how hard I try. All I had to hold onto was the kids, and without them, it's like the lights have all gone out."
The book is quite good if a bit unusual and provides an intimate look at the strains and pressures of being a cop.