Investigator Yale Gallagher needs to identify Boyd Fitzsimmons's murderer and find proof sufficient to free his client, Ambrose Collingsworth.
2. Antagonist sketch
Before the book, Patrick Doolan, a police officer, shot and killed Dion Fordham, an innocent 16-year-old Black boy. Doolan’s partner, Jerzy Strasz drew his gun and fired but missed, and a third officer, Sofia Thorburn, also drew her gun, but did not fire. The three of them told a consistent story to the police disciplinary review board, that Dion had a gun and one of his friends ran off with it.
The review board voted to demote Doolan and Strasz but not punish them further. One board member, Boyd Fitzsimmons, believed that Doolan and Strasz, and maybe Thorburn, should be fired and prosecuted, but he was voted down. He resigned in protest.
Fitzsimmons later ran for mayor. Doolan believed that, if Fitzsimmons were elected, he would push for Doolan and Strasz to be prosecuted. So, Doolan poisoned Fitzsimmons backstage before a mayoral debate, and planted evidence that would cast suspicion on another candidate, Ambrose Collingsworth.
When Ambrose’s attorney tries to get records regarding the investigation of Dion’s death, the police bureaucracy prevents her from getting the records, because publicity over Dion’s death will be bad for all of them, including the incumbent mayor, Isberg. Isberg is glad for the prosecution against Ambrose to continue, hurting Ambrose politically, but he’s not connected to the murder.
A Crooked Line
A Ration of Justice
Noblest and Worst
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka
August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones
When a Black mayoral candidate is accused of murdering a corrupt cop, ex-cop Yale Gallagher reluctantly agrees to investigate. To discover the sordid secret behind the murder, he’ll have to give up his hopes to return to the police, but if he doesn’t, his client will never receive justice.
A. Internal conflict
The MC, Yale Gallagher, left the police department semi-unwillingly, and hopes to return. At the start of the story, he thinks the police are the good guys and criminal defense attorneys are mere accomplices.
He is reluctantly dragged into working on the defense of Ambrose Collingsworth, a Black ex-cop and mayoral candidate, accused of killing another ex-cop, Boyd Fitzsimmons. Yale doesn’t want to work on criminal defense, and he doesn’t want the police to think he has switched sides, in which case they will not hire him back. But, as he works on the case, he comes to believe that Ambrose is not guilty and that the police are wrongfully hiding facts about Fitzsimmons’s history, maybe to avert scandal, or maybe to harm Collingsworth politically. He has to choose between justice for Ambrose and maintaining his relationship with the police, which is tied to his self-image.
He is expressly confronted with that choice in the story when a high-ranking police officer asks Yale to return confidential documents that are helpful to Collingsworth’s defense but embarrassing to the police.
B. Secondary conflict
Yale has a secondary conflict with some rank-and-file police officers, who resent him for working for an accused cop-killer. That includes some argument, and a brief physical conflict, at a bar frequented by cops.
The story is set in the fictitious Rust Belt city of Folton, which has parallels to cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit, and also to New York City. It’s set in the modern day, in the winter and early spring before a mayoral primary, but not in a particular year. The city is ethnically mixed.
The parallels to NYC are because I want the reader to see the police department as akin to the NYPD - politically powerful, self-interested, resistant to oversight, corrupt, racist. The city has decayed and is trying to lift itself into the 21st century, and the contrast between old/shadowy and new/bright is repeated throughout. The police department moves from a moldy old building, which it still uses for some things, to a new bright one. The first and last scenes are in an old hotel that is undergoing renovations.