4 out of 4 stars
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White Night by J.J. Holt follows Detective Jen Connors after she is reinstated to the NYPD following a devastating accident on her last case. With her career in jeopardy and her fitness for duty in question, she's less than thrilled about her new partner, an uncooperative transfer who is damaged in his own right. Their first case together involves solving a murder mystery with almost no viable initial leads, and Connors must ultimately stop a plot orchestrated by a mob member that could lead to many casualties.
Many crime thriller books fall into predictable patterns. White Night bucks this trend completely, with uncooperative witnesses, personal flaws that greatly hinder the protagonists, and a variety of unknown quantities that lend a great deal of suspense to the narrative. Holt doesn't shy away from throwing any variety of catastrophes at her characters, so even the result of the book's climactic operation seems like it could go either way. These elements never feel shoehorned in or disorganized, though, and the ending is still quite satisfying.
Another striking narrative element was the sheer amount of character in the book's world. Rather than focusing on only a few main characters to develop, Connors' enemies, co-workers, and even people she knows personally are incredibly distinct. This also leads the reader to sympathize, at least a little bit, with several of the antagonists. It's a bit hard to quantify, but every single character in this book, regardless of the impact of their role, feels like a real person.
White Night is very character-driven, and while it takes place in New York City, I felt that the story could be transposed to practically any urban setting with very little difference. This isn't necessarily a flaw, merely a stylistic choice that follows in the footsteps of most police procedurals. There is also no romance between Connors and Ross. I found this refreshing, as it would undermine Connors' struggle to become independent after her injury, but readers who demand romantic relationships in thriller books may not be satisfied with how their relationship develops.
Ultimately, its character-focused narrative is White Night's greatest strength. It is an incredibly engaging novel with starkly realistic motives and relationships, and every page is infused with a sense of urgency and tension. For these reasons, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. I'd highly recommend it to both new and old fans of police procedurals, from literature to television cop dramas.
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