Major Crimes Unit Sgt. Tom Wade worked undercover for 16 months with Justice Department to expose corruption in the King City, Washington, Police Department. The unit's members had been taking bribes, extorting drug dealers, skimming cash and drugs, and running a protection racket.
His moral actions cost him his wife, and his position on the force. Reassigned by his indignant police chief to Darwin Gardens – a hellhole of crime ruled by criminal warlords, home of King City's highest homicide rate – Wade finds himself back in uniform at the age of 38, not exactly upwardly mobile any more.
His two newly assigned officers: Billy Hagen, a 22-year-old rookie who graduated from the police academy at the bottom of his class, and another rookie, Charlotte Greene, 24, African-American, top of her class, obviously a token hire.
Darwin Gardens is the dumping ground for the dregs of King City. Cops bring derelicts here and abandon them on the streets; hospitals hire cabs to do the same for their indigent patients. And yet, it's not all that bad in Darwin Gardens. Just across the street from the police substation is the Pancake Galaxy coffee shop and Mandy Guthrie, waitress and the owner's daughter, soon to become Wade's lover.
A young black woman, Gloria Middleton, is found dead and becomes the focus of an intense investigation by the Darwin Gardens trio. Initially, she seems to have been a nice girl, but as the investigation progresses, Wade uncovers secrets and connections that suggest otherwise.
Goldberg's writing style evokes images of past memories – characters, places and situations that you've experienced in your earlier, more-adventurous days. But of course, you really haven't ... it just seems that way. Everything and everyone seem so comfortably familiar and yet, newly exciting. It's a bit cynical at times, but that inkling only adds to the flavor ... like a pinch of salt.
You can almost taste the town.
Thomas & Mercer ($14.95 list)