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Person of Interest, Theresa Schwegel, St. Martin's Minotaur, $7.99.

Person of Interest by Theresa Schwegel

My favorite TV show practically of all time was NYPD Blue. I loved the darkness of it, and I loved the way the indelible series characters were woven into the show. Lots of people reference Ed McBain when they talk about that show, but to me it felt a little fresher, a little more updated than McBain. Theresa Schwegel is far closer to my beloved NYPD Blue than Ed McBain's boys at the 87th precinct. And like "Blue" when it first premiered, Schwegel's work feels fresh; it feels like something new. Schwegel, of course, is already an Edgar winner for her first novel, Officer Down, but this novel feels like the work of an even more mature writer than the one who wrote the extremely original Officer Down. I'd compare her work to other authors like Megan Abbott and Mitchell Bartoy in terms of originality and total darkness (here she's more like Bartoy). Her telling of her stories in first person, present tense takes a minute to adjust to, but like the characters in "Blue" the ones in this book are so richly drawn it won't take you long to get into their heads and get over the person / tense.

In simple terms, Person of Interest is really about the breakdown and patching up of a family. It's about Craig and Leslie McHugh, who in middle age have gone horribly wrong by keeping secrets and not communicating about the things that really matter. One of those "things" is their teenaged daughter, Ivy, who is brought home completely out of her head on ecstasy one night and between them, Leslie and Craig's fellow officers agree to keep it quiet - to the point of not telling Craig. In a way this is a book about the painful process of growing up, not just for Ivy, who is undergoing the pains of transitioning from a teenager to a woman, but for Craig and Leslie, who are undergoing the growing pains of middle age and the damage taking their relationship for granted has done to them. Leslie and Craig aren't willing to let Ivy in on things either - they treat her like she's too young to understand what's going on.

Of course there's also a sharp police story surrounding the family drama. Craig is undercover in Chinatown - the thing he's not telling Leslie; Leslie is infatuated with the young man she thinks is Ivy's boyfriend; and Ivy is up to who knows what. Worst of all, to Leslie's horror, she thinks Ivy is somehow tied to the snitch in Craig's Chinatown case. As the layers of deception are unraveled, Schwegel still has surprises up her sleeve, the kind that have a reader flipping pages as fast as possible toward the end of the book, when all the threads come together, if not in a happy conclusion, in a very satisfying one. As I've mentioned before, I think women have a "micro" view of the world, while men have a "macro" one. This is illustrated beautifully by this novel, which gets very deeply into the microcosm of the McHugh family dynamics. In the end you won't forget the book because of the family it's about.

 

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