The Big Fear by Andrew Case is exactly the kind of mystery I like. It is complex with conspiracy inside conspiracy. It is fair, providing all the clues we need to divine the solutions with or ahead of our detective(s), it has the requisite level of danger and suspense, and there is a creeping paranoia that develops as it progresses.

It is unique, too, in the way you think it is the story of Ralph Mulino, the dispirited but stubborn police detective who has spent a good portion of his career on the outs with his colleagues. He goes out to a call one night, finds a murdered man and in a confrontation shoots someone he thinks is the killer, a man who turns out to be another cop. And things get really complicated when the dead cops gun disappears.

But then, it is the story of Leonard Mitchell, a mid-level functionary who works at the Department to Investigate Misconduct and Corruption. He is assigned to investigate Mulino’s shooting and begins to suspect there might be more to it than first appears.

Additional characters are also involved in advancing the story including a surprisingly brave city functionary who jumps to the private sector and discovers more than she bargained for. A few are a bit two-dimensional, particularly the beat reporter and the police accountability activist. And of course, the fixer-politician that Mitchell calls on for a bit of help is a fixer-politician, because what else would he be?

This is a story of corruption in government at the highest levels, of ambition and the need for respect and order. It reflects some of the resentments of police who believed they are over-scrutinized since the increasing evidence of police misconduct and brutality. There is a poisonous contempt for the general public who seems to value liberty over safety, police accountability over police license and a longing for more respect. What that leads to is appalling, shocking, but not completely out of the realm of possibility.

3pawsThis is a good mystery. It is scrupulously fair if you’re paying attention, the sense of the city of New York is very real, you can see, hear and smell New York while you follow the characters. There is a gritty nobility and honesty to these characters who simply keep doing their job, even when they feel unappreciated, disrespected and undervalued. I  was intrigued from the beginning and raced through the book. All in all, an excellent police procedural.


I received an electronic advance galley of The Big Fear from the publisher via NetGalley.