Hard Driving Mystery Writer' Latest Fails to Deliver
Color of Justice
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Format: Hardcover, 304pp.
Publisher: Morrow,William & Co
Pub. Date: January 2002
Edition Desc: 1 ED
Reviewed by Thumper, AALBC.com
Gary Hardwick, author of Cold Medina, Double Dead and Supreme Justice, is back on the literary scene with his latest inner-city crime drama, The Color of Justice. As a Hardwick fan from way back I anticipate his books like the oncoming of spring or fall. Hardwick is one of the rare breed of African-American authors who write mystery/suspense novels with a violent, hard-edged, reality-based style that takes place in the inner city. Miss Ann (an AALBC discussion board participant) recently observed that I like mystery/suspense novels that are grisly. She's right, I do. Hardwick is one of the few authors that consistently deliver the goods. The mysteries are tight, the violence isn't gratuitous, and the plots are always fascinating. But in his new novel, The Color of Justice, Hardwick failed to deliver. I was mildly disappointed with the book. It seems as if Hardwick was trying to do too many things at the same time, and did each halfheartedly. Overall, the book felt flat, like a watered down Pepsi in which ice cubes are a long gone memory.
The Color of Justice centers on Danny Cavanaugh, a white, Irish Catholic policeman who talks, moves and acts like a black man. Danny graduated from supporting character status in Hardwick's Supreme Justice to the leading role in this novel. He is a newly promoted detective who is consulting a police psychiatrist to address some serious issues.
While his personal life is coming undone, Danny is assigned the murder case of an affluent black couple, whose deaths set off political alarms all over Detroit. In solving this case Danny has to plunge not only into the secrets of the dead couple but also into his own.
I was a tad disappointed with The Color of Justice. The novel didn't have the hard- edged punch that I associate with Hardwick's novels. Many of the sub-plots could have stood alone as novels in their own right: Danny's relationship with his parents and coming to grip with his mother's death; Danny's love of Vinny and the different directions their lives are traveling; the subject of race and the part it played in Danny's upbringing; his sense of self; and the murders. Hardwick throws these elements together, plus a couple of additional murders, but it was not a happy mesh. It is as if Hardwick said, "Well, let me throw something together real quick."
Danny Cavanaugh was an interesting character but I didn't see the chemistry or the point of Danny's relationship with Vinny. This particular storyline was underdeveloped. It had potential, a lot of potential, but since Vinny's absence was more prevalent that her presence, Danny and Vinny's relationship was like a pleasant aroma that you can smell but cannot detect the source.
The examination of intra-racism within the black community has been an excellent premise for a mystery (I'm thinking of Sterling Anthony's 1999 novel Cookie Cutter, which I thought was a damn good book), but in the Color of Justice it seems out of place. I did like the return of some of my favorite characters from past Hardwick novels, especially Tony Hill, from his first and arguably best novel Cold Medina.
The Color of Justice is a so-so read. It just didn't generate enough excitement to get my blood pumping, though.