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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite Shane Scully novel yet! He's back!
Shane and Alexa Scully are back in action again, this time staying pretty much on home turf but up against the toughest assignment either of them have ever had. Friend and fellow officer from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Emo Rojas is brutally gunned down routinely serving a warrant. However, the Sheriff's department took the warrant from the Alcohol, Tobacco,...
Published on January 27, 2005 by Schtinky

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dead on arrival
THE TEASER
"Vertical Coffin" begins (as has become the deplorable fashion) with a totally unnecessary teaser, which has nothing substantial to do with the story. Like most teasers it is potentially confusing to readers--who are confronted with a cast of characters (except for Shane and his son) that they never see again.

THE SETUP
"Vertical Coffin"...
Published on April 5, 2009 by Stoney


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite Shane Scully novel yet! He's back!, January 27, 2005
By 
Shane and Alexa Scully are back in action again, this time staying pretty much on home turf but up against the toughest assignment either of them have ever had. Friend and fellow officer from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Emo Rojas is brutally gunned down routinely serving a warrant. However, the Sheriff's department took the warrant from the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms federal unit. Emo is dead in the "Vertical Coffin", police slang for a doorway, and chaos runs rampant as Shane arrives on the scene.

What follows is a burned out husk of a house that once contained a psychopath named Vincent Smiley, who all departments believed was a "suicide by cop" incident where he met the onslaught of officers on the scene with AK-47 gunfire and Kevlar body protection. Now the Sheriff's department and the Federal ATF department are at war, arguing over who was to blame for Emo's death in the Vertical Coffin. Shane finds himself in the middle of this cop war as he is assigned to investigate the incident as a neutral LAPD officer.

In this latest installment of Shane Scully adventures, get ready for the ride of your life. Not everything is what it seems to be, for Shane's finds bizarre clues buried in the ashes of Vincent Smiley's home, and as he seeks to unravel the mysteries, more and more officers begin to die in Vertical Coffins, leaving the two agencies frothing at the mouth for each other's blood. There are more twists and deeper characterization in this novel, really fleshing out Shane and Alexa, allowing us to see different angles of the man inside.

Also noteworthy, this is the first Scully novel that Stephen J. Cannell has written in `First Person' format, giving a more personal feel to Shane's inner workings and emotions, and jacking up the action another notch. You will meet two great characters in this book, Josephine Brickhouse and Royal Mortenson, who Cannell did a great job in bringing to life, each of which will touch Shane's life in a profound way.

This is my favorite Shane Scully novel to date, and I am looking forward to more Scully novels to come, although I deeply enjoy the novels Cannell does outside of his Shane Scully world also. Just keep writing, Mr. Cannell. Enjoy!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cannell Just Gets Better and Better, February 24, 2004
By 
John R. Linnell (New Gloucester, ME United States) - See all my reviews
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You may never look at a doorway in the same manner after reading this novel. The title refers to the fact that SWAT teams refer to doors in this manner as they are most vulnerable to being shot when they are in one.
As this story starts to unwind, a LA Sheriff's Deputy is gunned down as he tries to serve a warrant on a person suspected of harboring automatic weapons. The shooter then barracades himself inside his house and using an AK-47 takes on the Sheriff Department's SWAT along with an ATF SWAT team that arrives on the scene. During a ferocious gun battle, the ATF fires hot gas grenades into the house and it catches on fire which quickly turns into an inferno and then a bunch of massive explosions as weapons and other material in the garage are touched off. End of gun fight.
LAPD officer Shane Scully finds himself in the middle of the matter as he has heard the transmissions about the officer being shot and believes it is a friend of his. He was right. Dead right.
After the ashes cool the debris yeilds what is left of a burned body in an upstairs bathtub. DNA evidence makes it a perfect match with the shooter.
With that aspect of the case closed, recriminations start to fly about what ATF was doing on the scene and why they fired hot gas into the house, endangering the entire neighborhood. It is then discovered that ATF had asked the Sherrif's Department to serve the warrant and didn't advise of the extent of their suspicions about the type of person that was being served.
Things go from bad to badder after the funeral of the deputy when the two SWAT teams end up in the same bar with predictable results.
Shortly thereafter, one of the ATF officers is shot by a sniper.
The evidence begins to pile up indicating a SWAT Unit War and Scully as neither ATF or SD is asked to investigate the matter by the Mayor and get to the bottom of who is doing what.
The answer will astound you and I'm not going to give it away. What I will tell you is that Cannell has once again written a real page turner that lacks nothing in the way of action, intrigue and human relationships. (He could stand to brush up on his bridge game terminology, but that's a small matter that I just couldn't resist mentioning.)
I'm already looking forward to the next one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dead on arrival, April 5, 2009
This review is from: Vertical Coffin: A Shane Scully Novel (Shane Scully Novels) (Mass Market Paperback)
THE TEASER
"Vertical Coffin" begins (as has become the deplorable fashion) with a totally unnecessary teaser, which has nothing substantial to do with the story. Like most teasers it is potentially confusing to readers--who are confronted with a cast of characters (except for Shane and his son) that they never see again.

THE SETUP
"Vertical Coffin" opens when a homeowner, Vincent Smiley, kills a police officer who was attempting to investigate firearms violations. Both ATF and Los Angeles SWAT teams get in on the resulting assault, but uncoordinated with one another and things go badly. As a result bad feelings develop between the two SWAT teams, which is exacerbated as team members are assassinated by a sniper--each team suspects the other. Shane Scully is called in to investigate, and is teamed, somewhat involuntarily, with a lesbian policewoman, "Jo".

CAVEATS
From there, the plot takes numerous twists, for which the term "contrived" is inadequate. "Ludicrous" and "formulaic" are more accurately descriptive. If the reader can suspend disbelief, then the action is fun. Teenage boys will love it.

In an attempt to overcome the shallowness of the cutout characters, Shane and several others seem to whine incessantly about their various private angsts--but that really does not make them more real as characters. Shallow characters are okay in good action stories, but whiny cutout characters are just annoying.

The novel is "reader friendly" (which I applaud), in that the story is straightforward and easy to follow, with only three or so main characters, and a handful of "supporting actors". If you ignore the teaser there is no danger of any reader with even minimal intelligence becoming confused. But then, that's what you'd expect in a half-hour TV drama.

VERDICT
"Cold Hit", the next Shane Scully story in the series is terrific, but "Vertical Coffin" is not up to that standard.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanity and humor in a chase thriller, May 24, 2004
TV writer-producer and novelist Stephen J. Cannell, who has been involved in the production of some 40 TV series, knows the politics and defense mechanisms of law enforcement agencies like few others. Through his central character, Shane Scully, an LAPD investigator with a steady and steely approach, he gets us deeply embroiled in a jusrisdictional hurricane when SWAT units from the L.A. Sheriff's Departent and another from the ATF botch up a raid.

Scully himself, can be a bit of a bad boy, prone to bar brawls followed by face-saving denials and apologies to cool his wife Alexa's anger, not only from a matrimonial viewpoint but that of a superior officer on the force. Preserving both parts of this relationship is a balancing act weighted with humor and love. When our misbehaving hero, in an attempt to mollify Alexa's understandable rage with an offer of lunch, she responds with, "I don't break bread with lawless brawlers." "I was not brawling," he insists, "I barely hit anybody." "Noon at the Peking Duck," she snaps back. An example of Cannell's fine, good humor.

The story gets into action mode when homeowner, cop-wannabe Vincent Smiley shoots popular deputy Emo Rojas through the door (a "vertical coffin") as he was attempting to serve what he thought was a routine misdemeanor weapons warrant. He had no idea how unroutine this warrant service was going to be since the issuing agency, the ATF, forgot to mention Smiley'd been showing off his arsenal of heavy weapons and C-4 explosive to neighbors. The death sets off a battle with SWAT teams from different agencies who barricade the house while under fire from the renegade resident. Scully pulls his friend Emo's body from the porch even as Smiley is shooting his AK-47 from an upstairs window. The battle ends in a WACO-style burndown and a charred body. Two long-range assassinations of SWAT officers follow, adding to a twisting set of mysteries about what actually happened and to whom. Nothing is as it appears.

As political pressures force administrators (even Alexa!) to make wrong decisions, Scully, assigned to the investigation, fights their desire for a quick close to the case based on assumptions. He has his own tested methods which don't support the conclusions everyone is jumping to.

This is a powerfully written action thriller with a gut-punch here and there, tempered by human sensibility and model marital compatibility. Cannell places high value on hard action and private passions illuminated by an impressive inside knowledge of law enforcement. His twists are models of plot plausibility and he may just get a movie offer.

(Review originally in NoHo>LA, a Los Angeles newspaper)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong Partnership, March 31, 2004
By 
Untouchable (Sydney, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
This is the 4th book in the Shane Scully series, a series that, I think, is getting stronger with each new book, particularly when it comes to the development of Scully, both as a policeman and as a family man. The preceding Shane Scully books are THE TIN COLLECTORS, THE VIKING FUNERAL and HOLLYWOOD TOUGH.
The story opens with all-out action when Vincent Smiley, a cop-hater, decides to wreak his vengeance on the various law enforcement agencies by shooting a sheriff's deputy who tried to serve him with a warrant. The agency actually responsible for the origin of the warrant was the ATF. What the ATF failed to warn the sheriff's department about was that Smiley was suspected of hoarding a huge stockpile of weapons and explosives in his house.
Sheriff's deputies, tactical response teams and the ATF descend on Smiley's house where he is firing indiscriminately from every window, daring the police to attack him. They finally do attack with the result seeing the house with Smiley inside, burning to the ground.
In the aftermath of the incident blame is passed between the elite forces of the sheriff's department and the ATF over the handling of the incident with neither group convinced that the other is telling the truth as to their knowledge about how dangerous Smiley was. What follows would be the police force's worst nightmare when the bad feeling between the two agencies escalates to the brink of outright war when first, a member of the ATF's SRT (Situation Response Team) is shot by a sniper then a member of the sheriff's department's SEB (Special Enforcement Bureau) is shot and killed in exactly the same way.
Shane Scully, as a homicide detective with the LAPD and consequently independent of the two agencies involved, is asked to investigate the original shooting and subsequent fire. The fact is that he is asked to investigate by his boss, who also happens to be his wife, Alexa because she can trust him over all other detectives to get the job done.
Of course, how can he refuse, but what he is not prepared for is the assignation of a partner from the sheriff's department, an IAD officer no less, named Jo Brickhouse. This partnership quickly becomes the classic hate-hate relationship that is to gradually thaw out to respect, admiration and trust. Although it's been done many times before, I thought it was a particularly strong part of the book and helps define Scully both as a police officer and as a family man.
The pressure that Scully comes under in this case is like no other he has experienced before. Firstly, Alexa continually questions his investigation techniques and second guesses him because results don't come quickly enough for her. Secondly, Brickhouse refuses to concede anything to him, particularly not that he might be carrying out a thorough investigation. All of this added pressure creates an atmosphere of desperation that had me hoping just a little harder than usual that Scully would make the right decisions. (Silly me).
I must admit, I saw where this story was going from pretty early on and so, by the time Scully had uncovered the clues and made the earth-shattering revelation, my reaction was merely one of satisfaction that my own sleuthing was vindicated. However, I will pardon Scully for not getting there as quickly as I did, considering the personal pressure he was working under at the time.
This is a highly charged thriller combining an interesting mystery to be solved with strong character interactions. It takes the usual antagonisms between different law enforcement agencies to a new level, turning heroes into villains, at times unjustly. The resolution of Scully's case provides a strong finale followed by a bittersweet ending suggesting the series won't end here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scully's Eyes Focused On Her Like Heat-Seeking Missiles, September 30, 2009
By 
This review is from: Vertical Coffin: A Shane Scully Novel (Shane Scully Novels) (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a great read with delicious examples of old-school crime writing, such as:

About a murder scene crawling with law enforcement: ".... they're cooking a three-layer cake out here."

"His eyes were as dark and empty as two gun barrels."

"She seemed distracted, tense - wrapped tighter than the inside of a baseball."

"He looked at me, blinking like a lizard on a flat rock."

" 'Cain't get no lard without boilin' the hog.' "

" 'Them Marines are always right on time, Drop their loads, regular as Presbyterians.' "

Cannell's hero has a hero name: Shane Scully. Shane, of course, evokes the western guy hero Shane. And Scully. Remember Scully from MASH? The laid-back, risk-taking, romantic adventurer Scully? Or how about Scully from Bones? The laid-back, risk-taking, romantic adventurer Scully? And the pilot who saved the day in the river? Oh wait, he's Sully. One might argue for X-File Scully as a hero in the same vein, once she decided to remove her figurative glasses, take down her hair, and ... you know, the usual thing old-school heroines did.

Cannell throws in a few thoughtful analyses of current American society.

Some quibbles: A tad too much of the counseling- or 12-step-ese, but just a tad. The book dragged a bit right before the final, climatic, ass-whompin'. But I suppose this is like how Olympic skaters have to build up some speed on the ice with a few boring movements to get to the high-point jumps.

Overall, the book is quality brain candy, with Vitamin C and fiber added.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good, fast read, May 29, 2005
By 
Shane Scully is a detective with the LAPD, and he's married to his boss, a division commander. He bonds with his son while on a motorcycle ride with other cops. Later one of them, a sheriff's deputy, Emo Rojas, gets killed serving a routine warrant.

Or was it a routine warrant? He's blown away by Vincent Smiley, a wannabe cop with an arsenal that would stand off an army. Did ATF, who asked that the warrant be served, know more than they're telling? Why did Smiley then launch an all-out assault on the back-up that arrived? If Smiley wanted to commit suicide, why did he wear so much body armor?

While these questions are still unanswered the plot thickens. A member of the ATF sniper team and a sheriff's department counterpart are both killed, apparently with weapons from the other department. Tempers flare, accusations fly, and everyone demands justice and vengeance, not necessarily in that order.

As the only neutral law enforcement group left, the LAPD is asked to investigate, and it falls to Shane Scully to do the deed. But nobody likes how he goes about his job. Everyone thinks Scully should be looking someplace else, and looking a whole lot faster. The politicians are all trying to figure the angles and all the police departments want this to go away before it becomes more newsworthy than it already is.

What follows is a roller coaster ride that gives the reader a look at police procedures and politics that feels all too real. Everybody - except Scully, wants a quick solution, but not necessarily the truth. What looks true turns out to be false. And what seems not worth spending time on, ends up being key to unraveling the real mystery before the body count rises.

The characters are believable and Cannell does a wonderful job of helping us feel what they are feeling. We want the case to be solved. We want lives to be healed. We want good to triumph over evil. We want a simpler time - though, like Scully, we realize that that will never happen.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oooo, Shane. We never knew you were so sensitive., October 24, 2004
By 
Larry Scantlebury (Ypsilanti, MI United States) - See all my reviews
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Actually I'm having some fun here. Mr. Cannell does two things different than in the earlier Shane Scully genre. One works and one . . . I'm not sure of.

First of all, having read some of the other "Hollywood" writers, Cannell is clearly the best at putting out the visual, articulate, Hollywood pulp detective novel. And Scully is a great Hollywood dick, tough on crime, loyal to his friends, anti-management and with a strong moral compass.

Here he addresses the assassination of his friend Sheriff Emo Rojas. It gives Cannell an opportunity to explore and enhance Shane's diverse circle of friends, especially his partnering and emotional liason with the lesbian sheriff assigned to work with him. This reminded me of Spenser's work with Rachel Wallace in "Searching for Rachel Wallace," an excellent novel in its own right well before its time. But Cannell does a very nice job here and it leads Scully to have some serious conversations with himself on the slippery topics of where is he going, with his wife, with his son, with the job, with himself. This, by the way, is extremely well presented.

The part I didn't necessarily support is his wife, heretofore presented as an equal, who comes off, well, whining and witchy.

Alexa has always been the ying to Scully's yang, and here she clearly can't handle the load. Up to this point Mr. Cannell has treated her with well deserved deference; here she comes off like an anonymous 'chick.'

All in all, excellent Shane Scully. Cannell is still the man. 5 Stars. Larry Scantlebury
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What a disappointing plot!, June 10, 2010
By 
MidwestGeek (Ann Arbor, Michigan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Vertical Coffin: A Shane Scully Novel (Shane Scully Novels) (Mass Market Paperback)
This was the first book I've read in the Shane Scully series. The writing is good, and the plot pulls you in. The primary characters are interesting, although there is included a side story about Scully's son Cooch that contributes little to character development and nothing to the main plot. There comes a point where the reason for the villain's problems with gender identity is revealed, after which the story just goes downhill. That's an understatement--the plot turns ludicrous and asks the reader to believe ever more incredible developments. Action takes precedence over intelligence. Cracking into secure military computers becomes easy enough for untrained civilians. The obsessed villain is always one step ahead of the cops, solely to prove that he is more clever than they. Other bizarre characters appear from nowhere, topped off by an anti-hero, a former Vietnam army medic. Toward the end, I felt as if the book had turned into a comic strip, a kind of parody of the genre. Pity, since it is clear that the author can write well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another well crafted thriller, January 14, 2004
By 
Stephen J. Cannell continues to crank out story after story and never seems to tire or become stale. In his latest Shane Scully story two law enforcement agencies apparently declare war on each other. The LAPD loses a man while serving an all but unimportant warrent to Vincent Smiley, a cop wanna-be with a violent temper. Only later does it become apparent that the ATF knew that Smiley was likely to become violent and likely had a stash of weapons at his disposal. Later, officers and agents from both agencies are found dead. Shane Scully and his wife Alexa battle to get to the bottom of the case and save other lives that might be lost in a turf war.
Fast paced with characters that leap off the page at you, Vertical Coffin is a worthwhile read by an author that has more than proved himself. You won't regret the time you spend reading this book.
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Vertical Coffin: A Shane Scully Novel (Shane Scully Novels)
Vertical Coffin: A Shane Scully Novel (Shane Scully Novels) by Stephen J. Cannell (Mass Market Paperback - March 1, 2005)
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