"Four to Midnight"
(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale SEP 7, 2003)
"Every cop who's been on the job for a while can tell you about the call.
That one call over Police Radio, that if he had to do it all over again, there's no way in the world he'd answer it. Maybe he'd pretend his radio was turned off, or its battery was dead. As a last resort, he might try to leave work early - Hey, Sarge, I don't feel so good, I've been throwing up, I really think I should go home right away.
It might be an innocent-sounding call, part of the daily routine. Or one that hints of danger, the dispatcher's voice suddenly tense, just slightly higher pitched. A call out of nowhere, out of the air, a voice that breaks the silence as the patrol car cruises through the familiar streets. The cop doesn't know it yet, has no way of knowing, but it's the call. And once he answers it, it changes is life forever."Sergeant Eddie North is called by his policemen, Mutt Hope and Roy Knopfler, to 43rd and Market in West Philadelphian to assist them with the badly beaten and emotionally shaken, black and powerful Philadelphia Councilmen Sonny Knight. Despite denials by Mutt and Roy, Knight repeatedly accuses them of having beaten him. Knight wants immediate action by North to arrest the officers. North's reluctance to arrest the officers leads Knight to think North is trying to cover up the actions of his policeman so Knight takes action into his own hands, calling his many political and media contacts. Soon thereafter, the area is filled with many bigwigs and North, Mutt and Roy find themselves under investigation for the beating and possible cover-up.
Knight's influence also brings pressure from many areas, the media, other politicians and the black community. The tension among the policemen also rises when threats to policemen are found on a Web site and then a ski-masked man is found shooting at policemen.
Overlaying this tension is the trial of a black University of Pennsylvania professor who is accused of murdering a Philadelphia policeman. The professor, who definitely killed the policeman, claims self-defense in that the policeman was roughly handling another black man on the professor's property. The Philadelphia policemen, both black and white, hope that the actions of the professor result in his conviction, while the professor has garnered support of much of the black community that distrusts the police.
North is not happy with the progress of the investigation into the beating of the Councilman, so he begins his own investigation. He talks to his snitches and other policemen. He finds another Sergeant and some policemen who are corrupt and North struggles with how to deal with them while he himself is under investigation by Internal Affairs. Despite these distractions, North continues on in searching for what really happened with Councilman Knight and who is shooting at the police.
Flander does a great job of putting the reader into the lives of the Philadelphia policemen. While most police procedurals are written about detectives, this book is about the police officers that walk and drive in the city every day. Eddie North is a likable and honorable policeman and Flander really makes the reader want North to be successful in avoiding trouble with Internal Affairs and keeping his job.
Four to Midnight is the second novel featuring Eddie North. I did not see any problem in not having read the first book, Sons of the City, although I'm definitely interested in reading it now.
Despite not being a native Philadelphian, Scott Flander has been a Philadelphia area resident for 18 years and definitely knows the city - the neighborhoods, the people, even the food. Unfortunately, although many of the people are likeable, most of this book takes place in the poorer sections of the city and someone unfamiliar with the city could believe the entire city is full of drug dealers and abandoned and run down homes. Hopefully, in future novels, Flander will bring the same realism to the better parts of the city.
- Amazon readers rating: from 3 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Four to Midnight
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
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- The official Web site for Scott Flander
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About the Author:
Scott Flander grew up in California's San Joaquin Valley where his parents ran a weekly newspaper. Flander loves writing of any kind and and over the years has covered all kinds of stories -- politics, organized crime, racial conflict, breaking news, and even a humor column. He has worked on the Charlotte Observer, and before that, newspapers in Annapolis and Havre de Grace, Maryland.
Eighteen years ago he moved to Philadelphia to work as a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, where he still works. He turned to fiction writing in 1992, when he started working on a long story about how cops do their jobs. While his books are essentially about Philly street cops, they are really about the city, itself, a place he truly loves. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Karen.