Our last book club gathering of 2013 took place on a dark and drizzly November night. A relatively small group of thirteen attended this month's Whodunit meeting.
We discussed Edward Conlon's debut novel "Red on Red".
"In "Red on Red," Conlon's fictional detectives shift between investigating the suicide of a Mexican immigrant and defusing a drug war. A complicating factor is that Meehan has been planted by Internal Affairs to report on Esposito. When Meehan comes to respect Esposito more than himself, he is faced with a moral dilemma. Esposito attacks the day and the job enthusiastically, while Meehan drags himself to work." The book described the alliances and loyalties, the emotional tolls, the temptations, the shades of gray inherent to police work.
Every month we canvass the members to rate the novel under discussion out of a possible ten points. "Red on Red" earned a very low score of 4.1
Could this be because we are a predominantly female group and this was essentially a man's book? Perhaps.
Those members who gave it the lowest rating described the novel as verbose and over-long. They found the characters apathetic and they didn't engage with the narrative of the plot.
Members who gave it the highest ratings stated that the writing was intelligent and insightful. Esposito was a favorite character despite his lack of moral fiber. He was a colourful charmer who enthusiastically played the system and got results. Nick Meehan on the other hand was a middle-aged burn out with little self-respect who was essentially alone in the world. "Nick had equal aversions to going to work and coming home". Some Whodunit members compared the novel to a Greek tragedy.
New York was an essential character in the novel. Conlon writes of his city with unblinkered affection. He writes "This city was the world". A multicultural, bustling, impersonal, dirty, crime-ridden, artsy and yet beautiful metropolis which bears witness to millions of human dramas daily.
The novel was not a mystery as such. It was more a detailed expose on the drudgery and all-consuming nature of police work in a large metropolis. The toll the work plays on their values and their family relationships.
The title "Red on Red" refers to the act of enemies killing enemies. In this case 'perp on perp' murder. Essentially when the garbage takes itself out. Only police officers who are jaded by the crime and depravity they see constantly could identify with the phrase.
Edward Conlon is a NYPD police officer who comes from a family of police officers. He speaks about his novel to David Goodwillie in this June 2011 online interview.
There will be no Whodunit meeting in December.
We reconvene on January 28th, 2014 when we will discuss the novel
"The tenderness of wolves" by Stef Penney.