BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A dirty cop’s investigation into the murder of an Army officer leads to conspiracy.
PROS: Good characterization of the protagonist; a pretty good detective story.
CONS: Cliched and shallow secondary characters; too-subtle ending; science fiction doesn’t really play a part in the story.
BOTTOM LINE: Looking forward to next book in the series.
KOP is Warren Hammond’s first novel, and if its any indication, his writing career ought to be a good one. Juno is a police officer in the Koba Office of Police (KOP), and like most other cops, he’s dirty and on the take. In the past, Juno was the enforcer for current Chief of Police Paul Chang, helping Paul rise through the ranks by cutting a deal with the local organized crime organization. Now, Juno is near the end of his career, collecting protection money when Paul calls him back to investigate a murder of an Army officer. The trail leads Juno to uncover a conspiracy to remove Paul and to help invigorate the planet Lagarto’s crumbling economy.
KOP is part detective novel and part thriller, with some science fictional aspects thrown in. Juno is basically an anti-hero, prone to violent emotional outbursts and dirty to the core, yet he harbors some feelings of pride for his planet. What he and his partner, the squeaky clean, ‘I’m gonna clean up the force’ rookie Maggie leads him on path of redemption, even if it is only a little bit. A good crime novel sinks or swims based on the story hiding behind the clues. Based on this, KOP is a pretty good story. The clues all fit together well, and at no point did I think that Juno or Maggie were making deductive leaps beyond the knowledge they had. The conspiracy is much larger than it first seems, and turns out have a science fictional flavor to it that was unexpected. While Richard Morgan did it better with Altered Carbon, KOP more than holds its own in the story department.
The other well done aspect to the story was the character of Juno. We know he’s dirty. We know he’s violent and jaded, and yet Hammond takes us through his past and makes us care about what happens to Juno. We know how he got to where he is, what terrible things he had to do, and now that he has the opportunity to make up for his past deeds, he goes along with it. At first, he’s just doing a favor for Paul, but as the plot unfolds, and the conspiracy grows, Juno realizes he can actually make a positive difference for Lagarto and it’s citizens. I wouldn’t say Juno has a heart of gold, but he does go a good way toward redeeming himself.
I did have a few issues with the book however. Aside from Juno, I felt the other characters where rather cliched and not too fleshed out. We have the rookie cop, the dirty Chief of Police in bed with the local syndicate, and the local politician bent on removing the Chief and installing himself as the sole power in Koba. None of the other characters really have their backstory explained in any real depth which lends to the shallow nature of them. Secondly, I felt the ending was too subdued and subtle. Knowing the Juno is as violent and prone to outburst as he is, I didn’t expect the ending I got. It wasn’t visceral enough, instead relying on other events to bring the story to a close. And lastly, aside from the ending, the science fiction doesn’t really play a part in the story. Yes, the Koba police rely on the computers in the orbital station to do their job, but this wasn’t a big issue in the story. Likewise, being on another planet really didn’t affect the story at all, although I will say Hammond does a nice job describing the oppressive, steamy heat that is the typical weather on Lagarto. It reminds me of walking to my car every day in the summer.
KOP is the first book in a series about Juno. As I can only see Hammond getting better, you can bet I will be reading future entries in this series.