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Red on Red: A Novel Paperback – March 20, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (March 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385519184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385519182
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Author Edward Conon on Red on Red

When a detective writes a detective novel, one question is inevitable: "How true is this book?" Nothing in Red on Red couldn't have happened, I think, and much did, in one form or another. Parts of the story are a few shades, a few twists removed from events that happened to me, or to cops I know. I don't know if I'm giving away too much by saying that incidents regarding blizzards, bloodhounds, and inappropriate applications of plastic food wrap did not come to me in a dream. Other plot twists represent "what-if's" of wish fulfillment or worst-case scenarios from life on The Job, as we call it, and certain lines of dialogue are remarks that I really wished I'd said at the time. 

The question behind the question is whether to believe it. Though I'm tempted to compare the reader to a juror, even a famously cynical Bronx juror, I think the closer parallel is in a cop's relations with an informant. You come across a storyteller who takes you inside a world you want to know about, but you don't know if what you hear is gossip, gospel, or an outright lie. Even if you find your informant credible when he says that Joe No-Neck has a kilo of cocaine and an AK-47 in his closet, you won't know if Joe skipped town the night before or is babysitting his nieces or a pack of angry pit bulls until you knock down his door. It isn't a matter of whether you'll be surprised, but how. An informant figures significantly in Red on Red.

The heart of the novel is the relationship between two detectives, Meehan and his partner Esposito. Meehan is pensive and guarded, burdened by familial failures, and Esposito is a tornado of reckless vitality. One is a bull, the other a china shop. These men come to work each day with very different motivations and limitations, baggage and gifts. Who they are is not supposed to matter as much as what they have to do--investigate crimes--but it always does, somehow. What fascinates me is how people change each other, intentionally or otherwise, through inspiration, generosity, loyalty, or betrayal. That is the true mystery that drew me to write this book, and I won't pretend to have solved it.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. NYPD detective Conlon, author of the memoir Blue Blood, turns to fiction with this ambitious, sprawling epic of police life. Nick Meehan, a New York City detective slipping into mid-career burnout, takes a special case for Internal Affairs to investigate a suspected dirty cop. Meehan and his new detective partner, Esposito, look into a variety of other cases, including the apparent suicide of a recently arrived Mexican immigrant woman, gangland slayings by rival drug dealers (called "red on red" or criminal on criminal killings), and a serial rapist. In between the crime solving, Conlon examines the personal lives of his two main players, the subtle alliances and loyalties, the emotional tolls, the temptations, the shades of gray inherent to police work. The pace may be slower than the average thriller, but this expertly crafted novel will appeal to readers of literary crime masters such as George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Richard Price. (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Conlon's characters have arcs.
E. Burian-Mohr
The subplots which really are not mysteries but stories meander through the book.
Gerald Swimmer
If so, it doesn't make Conlon a bad writer, just not one for me.
Kim Cantrell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The title of this debut novel by a NYC cop refers to what happens in wargames when the oppositional or attacking side (ie. the "red" team) turns on itself. It's a very apt title for a story that features plenty of blue (police) vs. red (criminal) activity, but also plenty of blue (regular police) vs. blue (internal affairs), and red (gang 1) vs. red (gang 2) drama. Indeed, as in many of the better crime stories, there are all kinds of moral shades of gray flickering across the pages.

The protagonist of the story is Nick Meehan, a typically Irish-American cop (although thankfully not an alcoholic), separated from his wife (their marriage broken by the trauma of multiple miscarriages) and living with his father up in the Bronx. He's an unusual cop, introverted and wry, with a genuine fondness and eye for the absurd. He's just been partnered with Esposito, a sharp-dressing, smooth-talking, married-with-kids-ladies-man who has a genuine jones for the action from murder cases. The two have enough quirks to set them apart from the rest of the guys in their squad, but somehow form a comfortable new partnership.

Their story sprawls across a series of plotlines, opening with the investigation of a woman hanging from a noose in Inwood Hill Park. But the big running investigation is a spate of tit-for-tat gang warfare that Esposito is happy to encourage and use an informant to leverage, as it results in plenty of "exceptional clearances" of open cases (ie. the people killed are the top suspects in other pending murder investigations, and thus the police can "clear" the old cases). There's also a strange Catholic schoolgirl who keeps popping up from time to time, and lurking somewhere in the background is a serial rapist.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By K. Sozaeva VINE VOICE on March 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The first, say, half of this book lived up to its promise - a good police procedural, told from the point of view of Detective Meehan, showing his relationship with his partner Esposito and the work they do on a day-to-day basis - realistic, tough and lots of great character development. However, about half-way through or so, they both are injured and things just sort of wander off at that point. What had held the story together - by-play between Meehan and Esposito, and the police work they did together - mostly disappeared at that point and we're left with just Meehan, who by himself just isn't as interesting.

Not to say that this isn't a good story - it is - only that it gets bogged down after the injuries and doesn't really work its way out of the mud again until it is almost over. I'd recommend that you search this one out in a library to see if you like it before deciding to purchase it at full price. If you can get it at a substantial discount, I'd say go for it to those who enjoy character-driving police procedurals.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It is certainly easy to appreciate that author Edward Conlon is speaking from experience when detailing the lives of New York City detectives in his fiction debut "Red on Red." Conlon, who is an actual detective with the NYPD, knows the atmosphere of the squad room, the verbal interplay of the division, and the complexities inherent in the professional marriage of two partners. In fact, it is the character study of how two men confound and compliment one another that is the centerpiece for this genuinely entertaining novel. Sure, there are the requisite cases--suicide, murder, gang violence, sexual assault, etc...--but what really distinguishes "Red on Red" is the very real and complicated central relationship. Neither cop is a saint, and in fact one may be inherently corrupt, but both wrestle with the difficult daily decisions of balancing getting things done versus strictly observing procedure. And Conlon does an exemplary job delineating the moral and ethical dilemmas that arise and allows the reader to understand the detectives' more unorthodox choices when they veer away from the letter of the law.

Several investigations wend their way through "Red on Red." Meehan, an introspective Irish cop, is paired with the more volatile Esposito. Having become friends and allies, despite an ongoing Internal Affairs inquiry into Esposito, the two cops have a mutual respect for one another despite their divergent techniques. As a starting off point, one stormy night both an apparent suicide and a potential gangland slaying fall under their purview. The murder appears to have been a case of mistaken identity, and it leads to a story of rivalry and retribution on the streets. In addition, the detectives also become unofficially involved with a Catholic schoolgirl with a penchant for trouble.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lynne E. TOP 100 REVIEWER on March 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the military, "red on red" means "enemy turning on enemy". In author Edward Conlon's New York City cop world, it means bad guys turning on bad guys, family members turning on family members, and cops turning on cops. So RED ON RED is all about gang rivalries, revenge killings, police informers, partnership conflicts, dysfunctional families, and internal affairs investigations.

An unconventional police procedural, RED ON RED describes the formation of an extremely strong and effective working partnership between two mismatched detectives, Nick Meehan and "Espo" Esposito. Nick prefers the cases where there is a mystery to solve and motives matter; Esposito loves the cases where there is thug-on-thug crime so that arrest and conviction are all that matter. Nick does things "by the book"; Esposito cuts corners and bends the rules. The partnership succeeds, even though it only came about because an internal affairs investigator recruited Nick to work undercover to get the dirt on Esposito.

RED ON RED includes both tense action scenes and grisly crime details, but what the novel is really about is Nick's "take" on things: his father, his job, his partner, his estranged wife, the crimes he investigates, the nature of criminals, the changing NYC neighborhoods, and life, death, and suicide in general. It is a novel that could only be written by an author who is both a college graduate (Harvard) and a real-life New York City detective. (Conlon is also the author of a best-selling nonfiction memoir, Blue Blood).

This is a very long novel (442 pages). However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, because I got caught up in the characters of Nick and Esposito.
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