On the eve of the U.S. Bicentennial, Taylor is covering Operation Sail, and New York Harbor is teeming with tall ships from all over the world. While enjoying the spectacle, Taylor is still a police reporter. He wants to cover real stories, not fluff, and gritty New York City still has plenty of those in July of 1976. One surfaces right in front of him when a housewife is fished out of the harbor wearing bricks of heroin, inferior stuff users have been rejecting for China White, peddled by the Chinatown gangs. Convinced he’s stumbled upon a drug war between the Italian Mafia and a Chinese tong, Taylor uses every spare minute to investigate.
This story resonated with me on several levels. First off, it is a terrific mystery with just the right amount of drama and intrigue to carry the reader along. I also love history, so the historical elements were interesting. I experienced the Bicentennial while busy raising kids, so I wasn't aware of how it was celebrated across the country, which made it more fun to find out about Operation Sail and the ships that came to New York from around the world. The author does a nice job of blending that history with the story, so none of it is intrusive. It just adds the flavor of the period.
Also, as a journalist, I could really relate to Taylor and his desire to write a really great story. The glimpse into the inner workings of the newspaper business took me back to the years I worked for that arm of the publishing world, and it was a nice visit. It was also nice to remember the time when journalists reported the news and not every reporter sensationalized every story.
I saw Taylor as a bit of an idealist - something else we have in common - and I liked the fact that he was compelled to try to help a young woman who was new to the drug scene. Mary had given him some information that helped in his investigation, and she ends up in danger. He manages to get her out of that danger, but he doesn't want her to go back on the street.
As he's considering whether he should try to help her, he thinks about an addict he helped before and wonders if he can help this one. But he knows how hard that will be. "Prying an addict from the spike in her arm was a serious battle, a full-time project."
With the help of his girlfriend Samantha, Taylor manages to at least get Mary to a halfway house where she can take the first step towards getting clean.
Samantha also helps Taylor in the investigation, and I liked her character very much. She is a good counter-point to Taylor's idealism, as well as bringing her skills as a police officer to his efforts to find out who is bringing China White into the country.
BUY LINKS - Amazon * BN * Indiebound * Kindle * Audio/Downpour
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Rich Zahradnik has been a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine, and wire services. He lives with his wife, Sheri, and son, Patrick, in Pelham, New York, where he teaches kids how to publish online and print newspapers.
Reviewed by Maryann Miller