Photo by Amritanshu Sikdar on Unsplash
Street Justice by Vito Zuppardo is a straightforward telling of a mystery and might be classified as a police procedural, but I would never want to meet either Mario DeLuca or Howard, his partner and a fellow undercover cop. Mario is the senior officer and in charge of a Homicide Division, but occasionally participates in undercover work. Throughout the story, Mario blatantly and without any reservations accepts responsibility for temporarily stealing mob money and parking the money in an offshore account. Mob officials are far less than impressed as they mount a campaign to get their money back and seek vengeance against Mario and anyone associated with Mario by handing out suitable punishments, some of which include violent death.
As Mario reacts, he and Howard will employ ex-criminals with fantastic computer skills to stage elaborate schemes that will hide Mario’s involvement in a money movement scheme hidden from the police that stole money from the mob. In one scene I intensely disliked, a suspect is tricked into drawing a gun so that Marion and Howard could legitimately empty their weapons into the suspect. Mario and Howard were correct, of course. The suspect was one of the most extreme bad guys; there was no mistake. This type of romanticized cop cum rogue bounty hunter is not helpful to the image of police at a time when social media trumpets precisely this kind of behavior as a police norm. (Disclaimer and bias note: In a past career, I was a Sheriff’s Deputy).
Street Justice was published at the end of August 2019. I received a notice requesting a review because I had downloaded the book. I didn’t remember downloading it, but there it was, in my Kindle archive/TBR books. I hadn’t paid for it, so I felt a kind of obligation to read something I got for free. I remember reading other Vito Zuppardo books that I liked. Street Justice failed to impress me. It gave me an understanding of the advice to writers to “show, not tell.” Street Justice is a well-told story with little depth. It is a straight-forward style of “this happened and then this happened.”
“Street Justice” as a generic term, apart from the title of this novel, has meaning. Not based on law or any rigid transparent structure, it is a system of “an eye for an eye.” It is not a suitable system for a police force to follow and results in a “wild west” social structure. Street Justice, the novel, glorifies the generic meaning so much that along with the genres of mystery and police procedural, this novel deserves the genre classification of fantasy. Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movies present a rogue cop with a sense of justice completely willing to work outside the box to right social wrongs. Eastwood’s character is one man constrained by a system. In Street Justice, there are so many characters working outside the box that the container disappears.
Unreality abounds throughout the story. Every character under forty years of age who can turn on a computer is a hacker. It seems there is a race is to hire the best hacker before your competition snaps the talent up. Mario and Howard have many “old friends” in established and shadowy law enforcement agencies. There is no problem they do not have a solution for through their well- established networks. Realistic? Nope. The ridiculous link in this story was when one of our favorite characters reached out to an “old friend” in the intelligence establishment, either military or civilian. (Disclaimer and bias note: I was an intelligence officer, both military and civilian, for more than twenty years). Such easy sharing of information rarely exists, and when it does, the communication relationships developed over years according to protocols. This novel is more fantasy than anything else.
Street Justice has many, many characters. If a plot hole appears, one of the characters fills it with a back story. Criminals made mistakes in the past. Mario and Howard, along with several of their conveniently appearing contacts, are willing to overlook past wrongdoing if the character called upon is willing to bend the law a bit to further whatever subplot the author is pursuing.
The number of subplots in this novel almost equals the number of characters. I was tempted to make a comparison chart of characters and subplots. Giving into such temptation means I was not interested in the story but was paying attention to the number of subplots and characters that can be contained in 244 pages. The number is large.
Finally, there is the ending. Some romance novels are criticized for their “over-the rainbow,” sticky, syrupy endings. It is unusual for me to find this in crime novels usually filled with violence and wrongdoing. I have found no story in recent memory that concludes with a win-win-win-win solution. I must exclude the characters that were murdered along the way, but I believe it fair to say their opinions no longer count.
I have enjoyed Vince Zuppardo novels in the past. I was surprised to find I did not enjoy this one, even if I ignored sloppy editing. Misspellings and sentences that do not begin with capital letters are not intentional literary devices, at least not for the vast majority of writers. All reviews other than mine rated this novel at five Amazon stars. I may have read the same book. I rated this novel at 2.75 stars rounded up to three Amazon stars. Street Justice is available on Kindle Unlimited. No further Vince Zuppardo novels will be added to my TBR stack.