3 out of 4 stars
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Captain Jimmy Gallagher, 39, has spent almost twenty years with the NYPD, and he is finally being considered for a promotion. However, his higher-ups are divided. Some see him as a hero for facing danger head-on; others believe he is taking too many unnecessary risks. On the way to his final interview for the promotion, Jimmy and his driver, Detective Frank Ramirez, happen upon three suspicious-acting Arabs. They accost these suspicious men. One drives off with their unmarked vehicle; the second gets into a scuffle with Jimmy for a gun. When the second man gains the upper hand, Frank shoots the bad guy. The third Arab, armed with four C-4 bricks strapped to his vest, is able to board a bus that later explodes. Seventeen New Yorkers are dead. Nobody knows that the terrorists have a much bigger job planned, and the expected death toll would be catastrophic. How will Jimmy rise to the occasion?
Head On: NYPD Dies Hard is every thriller fan’s dream story: lots of high-octane action, danger all around, and an invincible hero, much like NYPD police officer John McClane (played by Bruce Willis) in, you guessed it, the Die Hard movies. The book’s creator, John Monaghan, being a retired NYPD captain himself, supplies all the realism needed. Police jargon, investigative procedures, the competition between the local police and the FBI, and politics within the NYPD all make the story intense and hold the reader in blissful suspense. Viewers of the defunct TV police procedural NYPD Blue will have a ball.
In light of the current situation in the United States where the police are being battered mercilessly, police supporters may find the book comforting. The police officers in the story are not perfect, but the majority take their mandate “to protect and to serve” seriously. (Based on my research, the NYPD motto is “Faithful to Death.”) I like that Jimmy doesn’t lack for courage, puts the public’s interests before his own, and encourages inclusion. There are other appealing characters in the story: Joseph, Jimmy’s supportive dad, who runs a private investigative firm; the jolly Murray, Joseph’s trusted aide; and an Arab who has a pivotal role.
Monaghan exhibits superior character building. The relevant personalities, both heroes and heels alike, are provided with backstories and motivations that are inserted seamlessly into the story. While many of the terrorists are the usual malefactors of Middle Eastern descent (the stigma is hard to erase), the book also employs Caucasian villains, a feature that makes the story unique. As expected in books of this genre, the characters engage in frequent cussing, and violence is a major ingredient. We also have to excuse the author for the plot armor that Jimmy is endowed with.
Another of the book’s winning points is the subtle foreshadowing that supports the later revelations. (I relished those realizations.) Monaghan also depicts the locations admirably, but there are times when the descriptions become unnecessarily meticulous. Those may be scissored out without harming the story.
The author infuses the book with needed humor in the banter among police officers, Murray’s antics, and the casual flirting between Jimmy and Jessica. However, the humor seems inappropriate at times, especially during the killing scenes. The love angle, while a welcome diversion, also appears contrived.
Readers will find quotable quotes that focus on the importance of family, the solidarity of humans, and the value of faith. I was especially struck by this one: “Faith was between a man and his God; religion was between men.”
Unfortunately, the book has other demerits. There is a kink in the timeline which the author should address; thriller buffs are sure to notice that loophole. Editing also needs a second look. Colons and semicolons pervade the sentences. Various other grammar mishaps are likewise present. These flaws, along with the ones mentioned earlier, constrain me to withhold a star from my rating. I give the book 3 out of 4 stars. Those like me who enjoy the occasional adrenaline rush are invited to join Jimmy Gallagher in this and his next adventures. This first one was a blast!
Head On NYPD Dies Hard
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