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The Deuce

Cindy Crosby: Reviewer. Police drama lovers, this is your book! The husband and wife team of "F. P. Lione" (Frank and Pam) are back with The Crossroads, the second installment in the "Midtown Blue" series and follow-up to The Deuce. If you haven't read the first novel, stop here and do so. Although this can be read as a stand-alone, you'll miss too much background. Plus, the first one is too good to miss.

The story opens as middle-aged single cop Tony Cavalucci and his New York City police department prepare for the chaos of New Year's Eve in Times Square. Since The Deuce, Tony hasn't had a drink for almost six months. His stalwart Christian partner, Joe Fiore, encourages him with scripture verses and pep talks. Tony is dating Michele, a teacher and unmarried mother of four-and-a-half year old Stevie. Although he's thinking about marriage, he's gotten her earrings rather than "the ring" for Christmas.

Tony's volatile extended family continues to give him trouble. "Hey, we put the fun in dysfunctional," says Tony to Joe. When Tony brings Michele and Stevie to his family Christmas get-together, things quickly disintegrate. Muses Tony, "Michele is always so tactful, she would never come out and say they were a bunch of psychopaths." As a result, Michele pulls back from the relationship, and Tony sees his family — and how he interacts with them — in a new light. In the process, he and his mother begin a reconciliation of sorts.

This second novel, like the first, still has some rough spots. The authors take care to explain some of the police lingo, but the explanations often feel intrusive and interfere with the flow of the story (a glossary might have served readers better). In some places, one wonders why an abbreviation was used at all (Tony talks about his RDO, then in parenthesis it says "regular day off." Why not just say it?) A consistent problem in both novels is that too many sentences begin consecutively with the same word or words and many of the sentences are the same length. There is also an overuse of the word "I." ("I unlocked the door… I tossed my keys… I had gotten a cell phone…) Although most readers won't consciously register these facts, they will likely find the writing choppy and repetitive in places.

Many things have improved since the first novel, including the mechanics of the characters and the more careful use of details that enhance, rather than bog down, the storyline. What remains the same is the Liones' terrific insider look at New York City and the day-to-day work of policemen working the streets. Both husband and wife are Italian American children of NYPD detectives, and Frank is a veteran of the New York Police Department.

The Liones' Italian-American heritage shows in the wonderful descriptions of food and of family get-togethers. Indeed, anyone reading the plethora of foodie details included here (the cops can't get a bagel without the Liones describing each flavor and topping) will feel compelled to fix a snack while they continue reading. However, beware: the "ick" factor is still in full play from book one. Some of the scenes include Tony helping an alcoholic repeatedly throw up buckets of blood, drunks wetting their pants in the police car, etc.

The Liones have a knack for using humor to leaven some of the darkness of police work, and several of the incidents are so bizarre you figure they must be real (the woman answering the door naked, the man dressed as a vampire in a coffin). I laughed out loud many times while reading, especially at the arrest of Santa Claus (drunk in a bar with The Grinch). The authors also excel at offering interesting, behind-the-scenes police factoids. I found the logistics of handling between 500,000 and a million people in Times Square for New Year's Eve fascinating — who would have thought the deceptively simple gathering of so many folks on a holiday required such organization and careful handling?

Fans of The Deuce will be delighted with this second installment in the "Midtown Blue" series, which offers the same mix of humor, grit, and relationship tangles that made the first novel so interesting.

— Contact Cindy at phrelanzer@aol.com.

Sara Mills: Christian Fiction Reviewer.

Book one, The Deuce introduced us to Tony, a hard drinking, hard partying, hurting New York cop. Already backed into a corner and feeling like he has no place left to turn, he’s blindsided by a new partner who shows him that God has another plan for his life. Towards the end of The Deuce, Tony acts on his partner’s encouragement and turns his life over to God. But does that mean all his problems disappear in a cloud of heavenly glory? Not by a long shot.

In The Crossroads, Tony faces pressure from all sides, as everyone demands that he change. His family wants him to change back to the man that he was, the one they were comfortable with. His friends want their bar buddy back, someone who won’t make them uncomfortable with any newfound morality.

His partner wants him to grow in Christ, to learn more about what it means to be a Christian. And his girlfriend wants him to stop repeating the same old destructive family cycles that have been a part of his life for years.

Tony suddenly doesn’t fit in his own world.

So what’s he supposed to do? Would he be better off forgetting the morality stuff and going back to his old ways? Can he find a way to balance reality and faith on the hard streets of New York?

Tony’s struggles with the pressures and expectations set upon him remind me of why I loved the first book in this series. The gritty reality of The Deuce grabbed me, and The Crossroads has the same quality behind it. Husband and wife author team F.P. Lione have captured the reality of life, the good times and the rough ones, and the decisions that don’t seem to have a right answer.

Although The Crossroads is a police procedural novel, it focuses more on Tony’s life than a case. I’ve decided to call this series ‘cop-lit’ because it is character driven rather than plot driven, and centers around the changes in Tony and how those changes affect each aspect of his life and his work as one of N.Y.P.D.’s finest.

This book filled a hole for me in the Christian fiction world. It’s literary in style, and yet a gritty and real cop drama with an interesting story line. In the past, I’ve read books in the non-Christian market to fill my need for this type of book. I don’t think I’ll need to look there anymore.