3 out of 4 stars
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Roger Cullen’s Lunch Money is a gripping cop thriller that keeps readers on the edge as they wonder what is really happening in Jersey City. Sullivan, a retired cop, and Frank, an active cop, are best friends who have each other’s backs at every turn. Sullivan retired in his 30s after discovering a young child’s body and having a related “altercation” with the mayor. Sullivan still manages to get involved in criminal situations, either on his own or with Frank, all while running his bar. Frank begins as a patrol officer who switches temporarily to the detective division after a particularly brutal interaction with an evil criminal. In the detective bureau, he gets to explore cases that don’t seem to be getting resolved, including one involving Sullivan.
As the story unfolds, various cases of Sullivan’s and Frank’s, both past and present, seem to be tied together in unforeseen ways. How does the mugging/murder Sullivan witnessed from his terrace tie into Frank’s continually growing investigations of other crimes? What’s going on with all the crime in a very wealthy neighborhood? Who is committing all of these horrendous crimes? Could it be just one person or are many people involved?
Frank and Sullivan have similar personalities, characteristics, and a strong bond. Both men are justice seekers, seeing to it personally when necessary, as they feel deeply towards the victims. They both love and appreciate women, especially beautiful, sexy women. Sullivan has many women friends whose friendships last long past their liaisons. They are both dependable and are committed to their friends. Together and individually, they are forces to be reckoned with.
Sullivan is often contemplative about life’s blessings. He is viewed as trustworthy by fellow cops. His time owning and running his bar has taught him to enjoy people from all walks of life and their stories. Frank tends to do things his own way. He is contemplative in how some things aren’t as important as they used to be. He shows his care for people by doing things for them and being there when they need him. For example, he fixes things around the apartment house for his widowed landlady.
There are several other relevant characters in Lunch Money. Frank meets Alicia while on a burglary call. He is struck with lust for this beautiful, married woman. He is constantly confronted by her mysterious background and hidden secrets. Her step-daughter Elizabeth is a perplexing person that continually confounds those that encounter her. Helene is a waitress at the local diner. She brightens up everyone’s day with her bubbly personality. Noble is a former cop, turned attorney, who helps Frank through a tough situation. He uses stories in a unique way to get people to think.
The imagery in the story is very vivid and intense. For example, a description of the old barracks reads, “As far as the eye could see every pier building roof was covered in what appeared to be tar paper. Every single roof showed evidence of damage from years of neglect and abandonment. Every roof had sections missing. The holes in the rounded contours of the roofs produced the effect of a cancerous assault on a lung.” The imagery is one of my favorite parts of the book, as it made me feel like I was there.
Throughout the story, there are times were Frank and Sullivan feel like something seems oddly familiar or “not right.” Call it a sixth-sense of sorts. Readers are kept guessing, just as Frank and Sullivan are, throughout the story’s twist and turns.
A major theme of the story is obviously police work. The author describes the everyday things that cops do, not just the exciting crime chasing parts. Sometimes it’s about helping people with things, like an old lady with a bat in her house. Seeing the process of Internal Affairs was fascinating. The regular patrols are shown both in the mundane moments and the more thrilling moments. Note that the author uses the word cop, so therefore it is used in my review. I realize that it’s more formal to say, “police officer.”
What was most bothersome was the grammar. There is a major issue with the use of semicolons instead of commas. For example, “The master bedroom overlooked the street but more times than not; Frank fell asleep on the couch.” It was quite distracting.
I rate Lunch Money 3 out of 4 stars. It kept me on my toes as I constantly wondered who had done what all the way to the end. The characters are easy to connect to, with many heart-wrenching moments. Because of the grammar issues, I could not give it a perfect score. Readers who love crime thrillers that deal with tough subjects will love this story. Those that are sensitive to graphic violence should skip this one. There is some soft erotica, but it is not the focus of the story.
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