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The Whites by Harry Brandt (Richard Price)

June 27, 2016

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Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” The relationship between the hero and the monster, the gazer and the abyss, that is what we get here in this crime novel by the author of Clockers.

Billy Graves runs the night watch in Manhattan, in the sunset of his career. It’s a career that was sidelined in the ‘90s when a stray bullet from his gun killed an innocent bystander. But he’s worked his way back up to something—not much, but something—and things are going well enough. That is, until a murder starts to dredge up old ties, old memories, old cases, and old crimes by some of his fellow cops.

Price divides this narrative between two different officers. With those dual plotlines plus the myriad other characters that come in and out of the novel, it’s sometimes hard to keep everything straight. I found myself lost at times, or uncertain of how a certain fact related to the rest of the story. But the actual plot was less interesting than seeing the characters wrestle with the demons of their past. It’s a more introspective novel than other crime novels I’ve read, more about the interior struggle than the exterior conflict. I can’t say I cared enough about the characters to really be drawn in, but I certainly appreciate the craft of the novel.

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