Don’t Believe the Video, Believe What I Say

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Shot to Pieces by Michael O’Keefe is a 414-page police procedural fiction novel I purchased on Amazon after I received an author alert about its availability. As a former law enforcement type, I like novels written by former cops such as O’Keefe. His career was much longer than mine and covered many parts of the job that I only heard about. That was only one difference. My experience was in California, he was in New York. Unless making observations at the federal level, which O’Keefe does, there is not a standardized set of terminology and procedures throughout the United States. There is a standard of training, known as POST (Police Officer’s Standards and Training) that is a goal of police academies but upon graduation, rookies are assigned to training officers where academy training is tweaked to the demands of municipalities and regions. All of this is to note that I learned things from this book.

Paddy Durr is a highly decorated veteran cop when the reader first reads of him in chapter one. He is already a hero and has been through many shootouts. He is in a marriage but it is ending and he knows it is all his fault. Paddy would like to stay married. He is still in love with his wife, Mairead, but has come to the conclusion that out of his respect and love for her, he should let her move on. They have grown children, some still in university, and they can also not accept the way Paddy has acted. Mairead and Paddy have been to marriage counseling; they have tried to work their way to acceptance and forgiveness. Every time they think they might be making progress, the video shows up and reminds all of them of what Paddy did. And for how long. And how many times. Even the kids have seen the videos. Of course they have. It is the age of the internet and the internet is made for (to complete this sentence check out some cool YouTube music videos made by WoW).

This novel is all about Paddy and his lengthy career. The story will shift back and forth in time both with Paddy’s career as a cop and his personal life with Mairead. In his personal life, there will be the intense relationship of early love, the settling love relationship that included raising the children, and the disastrous infidelity that dominated the later, diminished loving relationship. This low point contrasts with a high point in his police career. His advancement in law enforcement has survived political attacks by corrupt public officials as well as the physical attacks by criminals. As the story opens we meet the Paddy as an acknowledged police hero at the zenith of his accomplishments and a crushed emotional person at his lowest possible point facing divorce.

The two stories will be told in the context of a third story, the public shooting of a well-known criminal. Paddy may feel that the shooting of one lowlife by another is OK but his sense of duty, solve the crime, takes precedence over his feeling that justice might have been served. Besides, there was an eyewitness to the crime who may be in possession of the weapon used in the crime so there is a chance to arrest even more bad guys. This is a no-brainer course of action so Paddy and his special Anti-Crime Force mobilize to solve the crime before it gets too old.

It is when Paddy and the team go into action that this story becomes a police procedural which should interest any reader with an interest in cops and crime. Because Paddy is almost at the retirement stage, he knows everybody at all levels of his agency and adjacent agencies. They have worked together for years and it seems everyone owes Paddy favors, just as he is willing to do favors for others. Paddy is able to go around channels and get things done quickly. The reader will learn forensic facts and procedures, investigative techniques, interrogation methods, and innovative court procedures that can be used to keep bad guys in custody for longer than what one would think is standard. Outside of the investigation of this crime and while learning Paddy’s history, I learned things about Grand Jury proceedings.

The only weakness in the novel I found, one acknowledged by the author in his notes after the story, is that Paddy seems to have led an impossibly active life. We hear on many TV cop shows that some police officers go their whole career without drawing their weapon. Paddy seems to shoot people on at least a weekly basis. And yes, this is an exaggeration purposefully made by the author so he can bring in many stories illustrating the complexity of life as a cop. Paddy may be the story of fifteen to twenty police officers. Or more. Or less.

This is a linear story with few surprises. The entertainment of the novel comes from the processes that O’Keefe describes. This is a four-star Amazon read. O’Keefe has written a short story, Not Buried Deep Enough, which I will read soon.

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