Calum MacLeod is a reporter for the Inverness Courier and had been writing for SHOTS since its early days. In 2009 the Highland and Islands Media Awards' judging panel awarded him “Highly Commended Feature Writer of the Year”.
Pausing in their hunt for one man killing machine Vernon Slocum, veteran cop Bob Farrell suggests he and young partner Kevin Kearns are a team like Batman and Robin or the Lone Ranger and Tonto.
“Or Abbott and Costello,” another character interjects.
If they are, fair enough as they seem to be pursued by the Keystone Kops.
Author Sean Lynch is a former senior detective in the San Francisco Police Department, and I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t some old inter-departmental rivalry being played out here. In trying to stay one step ahead of both Slocum and the FBI, Farrell and Kearns take so many guns off sloppy G-men that in the process they acquire enough firepower to start a small war and put a sizeable dent in the Feds weapons budget.
Never mind Abbott and Costello. Actually, in this old school thriller with its bleak winter Midwestern landscapes, brutal killings and high octane shootouts, there is another partnership that comes to mind.
The setting is 1987, the year the archetypal veteran cop and younger partner buddy movie, “Lethal Weapon” was released and I spent much of the book expecting Farrell to mutter: “I’m getting too old for this shit.”
Which is unfair. Here it is Farrell, the older cop, who is the more reckless character.
Foiled by army interference from putting away Slocum for a series of atrocities in Vietnam, Farrell is certain Slocum has re-surfaced when a girl is snatched in broad daylight from outside her Iowa school and her teacher murdered.
Young cop Kearns is on the scene and does his best to intervene, but when he fails, he is set up as scapegoat by his bosses and the FBI. Farrell offers him a chance at redemption if they can stop Slocum by themselves – though personally I was never convinced why they have to. There seems to be little reason for Farrell not to co-operate with the cops leading the hunt.
The cover blurb begs comparison with No Country For Old Men and I can see why, but, for all that the story buzzes along and has its gripping moments, it is marred by an unevenness in tone.
The killings are brutal – Slocum’s taste is for raping, killing and mutilating children, but he will casually slaughter anyone in the way – Farrell and Kearns do feel like they have stepped out of a more light-hearted buddy movie.
A pity, because otherwise this is a pretty decent cop thriller.