by Joyce Kohl
Detective is the latest can’t-put-it-down novel by master novelist, Arthur Hailey. Known for his extensive and thorough research prior to writing a book is what gives his novels authenticity and credibility. In this book about homicide investigations, Mr. Hailey takes the reader into the mind of a leading character and his personal life, into a prison and an execution, and into the investigation of a series of murders. I purchased Detective solely because of my familiarity with this legendary author of fiction and not because my favorite reading material is detective stories. I didn’t waste a second buying his latest book.
I wasn’t disappointed!
Because of the plot which builds gradually from interest to mystery within the homicide division of a large police department and then ends with a crescendo finale, it wouldn’t be fair to tell very much in a review and take the chance of ruining it for those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to read the book. As in his previous novels, the depth and realism begins within the first few pages then continues to build right through to the very last paragraph of its 400 pages.
If you’re familiar with Author Hailey’s other top selling novels such as Airport, or Hotel, or Final Diagnosis, then you are already aware as to why Arthur Hailey is referred to as “legendary.” When he writes, he takes one central subject and then digs up all the factual background available on the profession of the character plus the central point of the plot he has in mind. He then begins weaving it on a loom of mystery and intrigue with what he hopes to be an unrecognizable set of clues which the reader may or may not catch and which will draw the reader directly into the lives of the characters. The main character, or the “star” of the novel may be the person next door, or someone you think you know or have read about. You’d be wrong. Mr. Hailey’s books are all fiction, but written with such realism backed by facts on every page that the reader forgets the book is from the imagination of its author.
Detective will transport you into the very soul of Detective Sergeant Malcolm Ainslie, his work, his personal life, and with all the expected authenticity and suspense. Within the first ten pages, I was completely hooked! I found myself unable to concentrate on anything other than when I would have the opportunity to sit down and finish the book. I was so caught up in the intense and intriguing story that I finally put everything else aside, sat down with Detective and finished it.
Malcolm Ainslie is an ex-priest, now cop, in the homicide division of the Miami Police Department. With a vacation planned to begin the next day, a phone call changes the course of events that could, he thinks, place his marriage in jeopardy, but it’s something he realizes he must do and for which his professional training instilled within his very soul a sense of obligation which he cannot deny regardless of the consequences. An intense investigation into a series of murders begins showing tentacles of evidence straight into his own department and into the city government itself.
As the tornadic fabric of the plot begins and a sprinkling of almost undetectable clues falls into place, a long drive to the destination which Ainslie is duty-bound to take, backflashes occur which serve to explain the direction his life is going now, memorable events in his past, and thumbnail “resumes” of his co-workers, friends, people he knows, and why some have become his enemies. Comparisons of his duties and how they effect his family and his personal code of ethnics, who he was in the past and why, and who he is in the present and who or what he wants to be or become in the future is the core of the setup for the storyline of Detective.
What is on the mind of law enforcement officers during an investigative process, the conclusions they reach and the hunches they follow, are detailed in such a way as to give the reader a true insight into their minds. Mr. Hailey also tells the reader the thoughts and actions of the criminals – sometimes as they are introduced into the story, and sometimes only when it is necessary. An officer’s personal life can, and usually does, become a factor in the professional life as well, and Detective covers this aspect with great care without jeopardizing the integrity of the profession.
If the details laid out in this book are genuine, and I believe they are because I trust the research of Arthur Hailey to be thorough and accurate, then the families of law enforcement individuals know that duty and obligation is a top priority. Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week. Accepting the knowledge is quite another story. The character of Detective Malcolm Ainslie is the result of all the highest qualities a homicide investigator can possess, plus a few added attributes which endow him with humanistic qualities which in turn gives rise to the character’s realism as well as keeping the reader focused where the author wishes.
There are few books today which include learning experiences along with passive reading. I like books that allow me to absorb new information. Perhaps this is another reason Arthur Hailey is one of my favorite authors. I always learn something from each of his novels. Whether it’s how an airplane stays in the air or how a hotel elevator works, the new knowledge I’ve gained from reading his books always gives me a sense of anticipation when I open one of his unread novels to the first page. Detective contains numerous facts about all the facets of homicide investigations. Most, if not all, of them were new to me. Though the descriptions are vivid and somewhat graphical, they are not gross or deviate.
For example, did you know that the first twelve hours in a homicide investigation are the most critical and that success diminishes daily? Did you know there are three essentials of a homicide? Witnesses, physical evidence, and a confession.
Are you familiar with any of the police “shorthand” or acronyms? A “BOLO” means “Be On The Lookout.” A “315” breaks down with the “3” meaning “emergency” and the “15” meaning “officer needs help.” Would the average complaining citizen be willing to take employment that earns low wages and generates hate calls?
Detective covers several different types of crimes and punishments; the training of the people who pledge to protect others; individual characters described so adeptly the reader can easily distinguish between them without needing to flip the pages backward to find out who a certain character is or when the character was first introduced in the story; and various aspects of police departments and what they deal with on a daily basis. The book also touches upon controversial subjects such as the death penalty and the sealing of teenage crime records and gives a few pro and con concepts of each.
There are ideas and concepts where your personal religious beliefs may be challenged, but because this book is a murder mystery woven around a tragic tale, they seem to belong. However, there were a few places where the language or event was not necessary for the general plot and added nothing at all to the story. If anything, they were out of place.
I sometimes think an author is forced to add a bit of street language and a few immoral values or there may not be enough buyers to push a book into the level of being profitable. There have been many books I’ve picked up to read and after a few pages tossed it into the garbage because I simply don’t like books with this stuff and won’t waste my time reading what I deem to be trash. There isn’t much of this in Detective.
I think this book is right up there with the best of Author Hailey’s other novels. I give it 4 “Go” lights.