RED ON RED by Edward Conlon
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Spiegel & Grau
From the author of the celebrated and bestselling memoir Blue Blood (“May be the best account ever written of life behind the badge.” —Time) comes this highly anticipated fiction debut. In Red on Red, Edward Conlon tells the story of two NYPD detectives, Meehan and Esposito: one damaged and introspective, the other ambitious and unscrupulous. Meehan is compelled by haunting and elusive stories that defy easy resolution, while Esposito is drawn to cases of rough and ordinary combat. A fierce and unlikely friendship develops between them and plays out against a tangle of mysteries: a lonely immigrant who hangs herself in Inwood Hill Park, a serial rapist preying on upper Manhattan, a troubled Catholic schoolgirl who appears in the wrong place with uncanny regularity, and a savage gang war that erupts over a case of mistaken identity.
Red on Red captures the vibrant dynamic of a successful police partnership—the tests of loyalty, the necessary betrayals, the wedding of life and work—and tells an unrelenting and exciting story that captures the grittiness, complexity, ironies, and compromises of life on the job.
The terminology for the title “Red on Red” to put it in police perspective, refers to criminals killing other criminals. Much like mob on mob hits, Author Edward Colon portrays in his first novel the realistic gang on gang violence that New York City police are faced with. Prior to reading “Red on Red”, I enjoyed Colon’s first book that was titled “Blue Blood”. “Blue Blood” was released in 2004 and detailed Colon’s actual work as an NYPD detective. Colon worked out of the NYPD’s 44th precinct, which is located in the South Bronx near Yankee Stadium. Colon has an interesting background including a college degree from Harvard as well as writing his own column for the New Yorker from 1997 until 2000. He currently retired from police work this past year.
Getting back to his most recent work, “Red on Red” is the fictional story of two NYPD detectives. Nick Meehan comes from an Irish American background and enters the story being assigned to his partner Esposito. You will never hear Esposito’s first name in the book. It is the habit of most cops to call each other by their last names. The purpose for Meehan’s new assignment is that he is to be keeping an eye on Esposito for the Internal Affairs Bureau. Esposito is a much more volatile character and his last partner had an unfortunate death. As a result, Meehan was assigned to work by Esposito’s side and the two make for a great good cop/bad cop routine. Only at the end of the story it is hard to figure out who is the good cop and who is the bad cop. But you will have to read to find out. As the story goes on, the partnership is faced with many difficult trials and tribulations. The first case that Meehan stumbles upon is the death of a Mexican immigrant found hanging in a tree at Inwood Hill Park. Inwood Hill Park is located at the very northern tip of Manhattan. The circumstances make Meehan feel uneasy and he does not feel like this is your open and shut suicide. During this investigation, Meehan and Esposito encounter Lopez. Lopez will tie you into the ending so you should pay attention to his character and his daughter. Lopez seemed suspicious as is his personality throughout his several later appearances.
Nick and Esposito grow close with their partnership after finding themselves in the middle of a huge gang war also. The initial murder starts off with a case of mistaken identity. With that, Esposito and Meehan can be credited with basically killing an entire family whether it is directly or indirectly. During this whole time, Esposito has no idea that his partner is tied in with Internal Affairs. Colon describes in depth the pressures that Meehan feels after establishing a tight bond with Esposito while feeling like he is betraying him. The pressure becomes so great, Meehan even thinks about taking his own life. The highlight of the story is the serial rapist that is terrorizing women all over New York City. Meehan and Esposito of course find their way tied into the investigation even though it is the responsibility of the highly glamorized SVU or Special Victims Unit. This is where that character Lopez will make his reappearance with his daughter Grace. The suspense will make you continue reading as Meehan and Esposito attempt to lure the sadistic predator from the shadows. Nick, Esposito and the rest of the squad take to a clandestine operation in hopes of catching the rapist. Leading you up to the ending, the furtive rapist might prove too much for New York’s Finest. Let’s just say the ending will leave you hanging. If you read it, you will know exactly what I am talking about!
If you like detective stories and suspense, then this story is for you. I can say I loved Colon’s first work “Blue Blood” because it was real and written about events from his actual career. My preference for choosing a book leans toward the non-fiction side. However, I really enjoyed “Red on Red”. The book is fiction but Colon has the experience to make the work and the characters come to life. If this is your genre, I would like to recommend this book.
Guest Reviewer Michael C. is the husband of Damaris @ GCR and is happy to bring an occasional male perspective to the blog. He loves to read all kinds of books, but his favorites lean toward Non-Fiction, True crime, mystery and thriller. His favorite author is John Grisham.