Joseph Wambaugh novels are impregnable to critics’ negative barbs; the author is that good. I started out expecting to rate Finnegan’s Week at five stars and ended the same way. This novel is entertainment that fans of “cop” novels will like. Sure, there are some mysteries. Who would steal two thousand pair of specialized US Navy boots? Who killed the various characters, and what were the motives behind the deaths? (No spoiler, not all the deaths were intentional). What is HAZMAT, and why should you care? (OK, HAZMAT means hazardous materials and, much like climate change, you should care about terms associated with HAZMAT very much.)
Finnegan’s Week is for fun and entertainment. Most of the fun is contained in the snappy dialogue that takes place in the workshops associated with law enforcement. Squad rooms, briefing rooms, laboratories, and morgues all contribute to different types of humor. Viewers of CSI, Homicide Hunter, and NCIS may not believe this kind of humor exists or may not want to. How could the folks who protect us be so cynical? A brief reflection shows the logic of extreme cynicism.
Law enforcement professionals are everyday people with the same desires for a family, security, and a good life as the general population. They do have one great motto that is repeated often no matter the level of the force; municipal, county, state, or federal. Our goal: Everyone goes home safe tonight. Law enforcement officials (LEF) deal with a variety of smart, intelligent, imaginative individuals who seek a shortcut to riches. Schemes are intricate and sometimes illegal, plans that can ignore morality and exhibit horrors the general population hopefully will not meet. This almost daily exposure to aberrations which exists in an overall context of 24 hours per day watchfulness for personal security results in some very dark humor. Outsiders can be shocked. Readers can be entertained. Finnegan’s Week contains a lot of dark humor; it is realistic.
Finbar Brendan Finnegan is a wannabe actor who did NOT go to Hollywood and spend a lot of time bussing tables while waiting to be discovered. Instead, he became a police detective who worked a routine, dreary day while waiting to be seen. Only five years away from a police pension, things were not looking good. The mirror told him he was aging faster than the number of employment opportunities. Aging, humor, and dark humor propel this novel.
Jules Temple occupies the ne’er do well spot. Son of a wealthy father, Dad thought giving him a monthly allowance for the rest of his son’s life should do the trick of forcing maturity on the wild son. If he couldn’t survive on a meager allowance, Jules would have to work. The son, a wastrel, found his future in the Waste Management industry, an ever-developing sector that came with a faster developing regulatory bureaucracy. Illegal shortcuts meant big profits but could be more dangerous than the inherently insecure products being transported to designated dumpsites. Wasn’t there a closer, concealed stream nearby? Jules would not go so far, but he would falsify shipping documents so that waste could be dumped in sites not certified for the level of hazard indicated on shipping labels.
Once some regulations were ignored, the door was open to further abuse of annoying rules. Why pay legal workers when workers du jour could be paid in cash? The workers could further deliver material to other owners less compliant with the law who would kickback cash payments to Jules. Life was good, and Jules was getting rich, so rich that he could legitimately sell the business and retire (before getting caught.)
Abel Durazo and Shelby Pate were two drivers for Jules who saw an opportunity when they became aware Jules was going to sell Green Earth Hauling and Disposal. In one of their final runs into Mexico, they would steal a shipment of US Navy shoes, throw it on the back of the truck carrying mislabeled waste, sell the shoes to an agreeable reseller in Mexico, sell the truck to another entrepreneur, and report the theft to Jules. Jules might be able to file for insurance reimbursement. To be safe, Abel and Shelby did not inform Jules of their plan.
Abel and Shelby are favorites of the law enforcement community. They are stupid and high on alcohol or drugs most of the time. Little known to the public, law enforcement routinely waits for these types of evildoers to catch themselves. Sometimes, in the case of imminent public danger, there must be a chase, as in Finnegan’s Week.
Fin will be able to raise himself from the doldrums of being unable to get an acting job. He will team up with Detective Bobbie Ann Doggett (Bad Dog) who is not a police detective but is young and cute in a stout sort of way, and Nell Salter, a DA Investigator. Nell might be prettier than Bobbie, maybe due to the previously broken nose, but her real appeal for Fin is the shared relationship experiences. Fin had al least three ex-wives and looked upon marriage as a hobby. This scared Fin about Nell; he was not looking for the next adventure. Nell had had lots of short-term relationships, one bad long-term relationship, and was suffering from relationship fatigue.
These personal concerns had to give way to a search for a boy with ringworm.
Finnegan’s Week is fun. I don’t list examples of the hilarious humor because what is funny to me might not be entertaining to less demented readers. Finnegan’s Week retails for USD 8.99 on Amazon. I purchased the Kindle edition for USD 0.99. It is unusual for me to find a 352-page novel that I read in one session. Joseph Wambaugh is good.