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A dead-on, dirty mystery of internal affairs

There’s an old axiom among confirmed skeptics that cops and crooks are the flip side of the same coin.

This suspicion is held most evidently by cops themselves and is responsible for the multi-layered span of command in large police departments, and even small-town constabularies, looking over every encounter sworn enforcers have with the public.

Connie Dial rose through the levels of the Los Angeles Police Department to the rank of Hollywood station commander, a 22-year career dealing with street scum, scheming detectives and foppish chiefs.

Dead Wrong is Dial’s fourth and latest book about crime on both sides of the Thin Blue Line. It’s one thing for a good crime writer to research and contrive police procedurals, but it’s quite another perspective to have lived the life and to possess the talent to fictionalize real experiences.

Connie Dial is a skilled writer and a trained cynic. Her characters bluff, cheat, lie and trust no one, least of all their comrades and bosses. Their suspicions are cued by minute facial expressions, minor ambiguities, uncharacteristic behavior, a minor lie and opportune typos on boilerplate reports. It’s an ugly battle in the world of crime – both armies fight dirty and everybody trusts nobody. An interesting cohabitation of mutual dependence in quid pro quo.

The protagonist in Dead Wrong – the same as Dial’s featured player in her prequel, Fallen Angels – is without question Connie Dial playing Captain Josie Corsino, without the warts. Josie was a good detective coming up, irreproachable, smart, savvy and fearless. In the politically hidebound bureaucracy of LAPD, Josie handled her cops and bosses, the press and the public, and had no interest in sniveling for gold bars or oak clusters or her picture in the papers. She plays it straight, trusts hunches, defies procedural custom and has some real-enough personal problems to balance along with risking the lives of dozens of cops and herself being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Josie’s best homicide detective, Kyle Richards, responds to a radio call about a disturbance behind a sleazy bar and ultimately shoots and kills a man who is fleeing and pointing a gun at him. The man was a plainclothes cop, and he was black.

Shots fired by a cop trip an internal investigation, and a cop shooting another cop ups the stakes and sets off alarms that never silence, unless it’s proven that the dead cop is dirty. Dead Wrong is an exciting investigation into a labyrinth of dirty deeds and what men entitled with a badge will do to deflect exposure.

It would be a satisfying double feature to first read Fallen Angels and then read Dead Wrong, one after the other. These books are 2 and 3 years old and published by Permanent Press in Sag Harbor, New York. I’m chagrined to admit that I wrote this review right after I read the books last to first then put them aside to review a big release from one of the foremost publishing houses. Dial’s books stayed with me all this time, and I’m delighted to at last vindicate myself. If you enjoy police procedurals, these two are among the best.

Jeff@jeffmannix.com.

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