The concept of the NYPD Red series had me from the jump. NYPD Red is an elite police squad tasked with protecting New York’s rich, famous and productive. Detective Zach Jordan does not run Red, but he is the biggest and most effective cog of the very shiny investigative wheel that turns only when a high-profile crime has been committed. When one considers the locale in which Red operates, it turns fairly often. The second book in this fine series --- fittingly, if somewhat unimaginatively, titled NYPD RED 2 --- shows authors James Patterson and Marshall Karp at the top of their creative games, producing an exciting story that twists, turns and shines from first page to last.
The meat of NYPD RED 2 begins with an unforgettable vignette. New York is under siege by a fiend dubbed by the media as the Hazmat Killer, due to his penchant for killing his victims and then displaying them rather publicly in Tyvek coveralls. Readers are introduced to the Hazmat Killer when his fourth victim is discovered, brutally murdered and displayed on a revolving carousel in the heart of Central Park. What makes this poor soul different is that she is Evelyn Parker-Steele, a high-influence political operator who is running the campaign of the challenger in New York’s mayoral election. As with the other victims, the Hazmat Killer has provided the police with a video of Parker-Steele confessing to a serious crime.
Given Parker-Steele’s prestige, the case is handed over to Jordan and his partner, Kylie MacDonald. Jordan and MacDonald have a history of being involved in the remote past, and while they are with others at the present time, a flicker from the torch each used to carry for the other occasionally manifests itself. Jordan finds this particularly hard to handle, given that MacDonald and her husband --- a guy who will never be on his buddy list --- are having significant problems in their marriage. Lest you think that you have stumbled into a romance novel at any given point, the Hazmat Killer is never far away.
Jordan and MacDonald are under significant pressure from the incumbent mayor to solve the crimes and bring the killer to justice before the election, an ante that is further upped when the culprit abducts a high-profile, albeit unsympathetic, individual with the obvious intent of exacting a rough vigilante justice at their expense. Jordan and MacDonald eventually learn that the perpetrator is much closer than they could ever believe, but that knowledge may be too little and come too late. Meanwhile, someone else is looking for the killer as well, hoping to enact some justice of their own for a wrong committed decades before and unbound by any laws or procedural requirements. It will be a race to the finish to see who reaches the Hazmat Killer first...and a tie might well mean a loss for NYPD Red.
Patterson and Karp bring a cinematic viewpoint to NYPD RED 2; this book and its predecessor could easily be the basis for a network television series. The action never really lets up, even when the characters stop to take (or steal) a breath. This is one of the better police procedural series out there today. Long may it run.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub