Edgar Award Finalist: In the first novel of the Jack Leightner crime series, the Brooklyn homicide detective investigates a perplexing murder in dangerous terrain: the rundown neighborhood of his youth.
Unlike the other members of the elite Brooklyn South Homicide Task Force, Detective Jack Leightner prefers his murders baffling. He likes to lose himself in tough cases, and he has just caught a murder that will consume him like no other: an unidentified body, bound execution style, on the banks of the Gowanus Canal. Leightner is finishing his first look at the corpse when he discovers a knife wound and loses his lunch. He has seen a thousand dead bodies, but nothing brings back bad memories like death by knife.
The victim was a hardworking Dominican man with a family, a job, and no ties to the underworld. Investigating this murder will suck Leightner back into Red Hook, the neighborhood of his youth—now a labyrinth of empty docks and crumbling housing projects. It’s a tough case, but not half as hard as going home.
Red Hook is the 1st book in the Jack Leightner Crime Novels, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
This first effort from Cohen works both as a good mystery and a literary novel. It is better than promising (may the gods take note): it is accomplished. The mystery involves a young Dominican, Tomas Berrios, found stabbed to death with two concrete blocks tied to his legs. His killers were about to drop him in the river when they were seen and fled. No one who knew Tomas has any idea why he was murdered. He was a good worker, a married man with two children. Likewise, no one knows why Det. Jack Leightner threw up when he saw the body or has become obsessed with the case. The thing is, it happened in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn where Leightner was born. It brought back bad memories of his father, his dead brother, his failed marriage and the son from whom he has been alienated ever since. The more novelistic dimension of this noirish police procedural concerns the relationship of father and son, both seeking clues to their unhappy lives in Red Hook. The son, Ben, a would-be filmmaker, is more like his father than he realizes in his inability to make lasting relationships. He has never understood his father's apparent coldness. The author draws each of these characters with sensitivity. Their poignant relationship resonates with Cohen's portrait of present-day Red Hook, once a major port, abandoned by progress but not without hope. For such a realistic work the ending is a bit too pat, the plot's loose strings neatly tied in bows. Still, this is a fine novel deserving of attention.