John Mackie

Thorton Savage - Homocide Detective, New York City

"West Side"

(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale MAR 22, 2006)

“Talk to me already….What do you think?” Granger said.  His words were followed by three rapid smoky puffs.  “I’m thinking he’s our mark.  And he certainly seems drunk enough.  Jerk’d be a piece a cake.”
“My, my.  I think you just might be right, Georgie,” Janus purred agreeably.
He smiled, accelerated the Jag through the block, and parked it off the corner of Ninth. “Put out the goddamned cigarette and let’s go have us a drinkee-poo in Cowpokes.  Maybe we can interest out new cowboy friend in a little one-way trip to Pleasure Island.”
“With a follow-up stay at Boot Hill,” Granger quipped coldly.

West Side by John Mackie

West Side is retired New York Detective John Mackie’s fourth book in his series about the homicide detectives of New York’s Manhattan South division.  In this book, Detective Sergeant Thorton Savage and this team of three detectives must solve the insurance scam murders of two shady characters, George Granger and John Holloway and their accomplice, neurologist Dr. R. Charles Janus.  Despite and perhaps because of often showing the point of view of the murderers as well as the detectives, Mackie’s good writing and storytelling along with convincing and often dislikeable characters certainly grabs the reader.   I read all four of Mackie’s book in order without reading any others and remained interested in reading this book.  Unfortunately, I have no more books to read and have to wait for the next one.

As typical of all of Mackie’s four books in this series, the main villain, George Granger is very strong and also quick to use violence to get what he wants.  Since Granger, his business partner John Holloway, as well as his doctor and sometime homosexual partner Dr. Janus, are in need of money, they decide to find a look-a-like that can be murdered in a way that looks like a natural death to gain insurance proceeds.  They need to act quickly as Granger’s HIV status has left him with a soon to be canceled insurance policy.  John Holloway is enlisted as the inheritor that will give false witness to the death of the wrong Granger.  With Granger’s help, Janus asphyxiates the fake Granger into what appears to be a heart attack. 

Although the police investigate, the case is eventually closed with a natural cause of death. However, one of the policemen initially investigating the death of the fake Granger feels that something improper has occurred and doesn’t trust the obnoxious Janus.  He discusses his concerns with his friend Sergeant Savage, who after investigating the case somewhat, decides to take it to his lieutenant and his chief who allow Savage and his team to look into the case.  Savage and his team slowly uncover some questionable practices of Janus that lead to further investigation to trace down the actual killers.

Savage’s team includes detective Jack Lindstrom, the somewhat uncharacteristic brainy and complex detective, Richie Marcus, the one-dimensional more-typical wise cracking detective and the likeable Diane DeGennaro, Richie’s romantic and work partner who is probably the least developed of Mackie’s series characters.  They work together and separately to uncover critical problems with the case that eventually lead to the determination that the real Granger is still alive.

As mentioned, the point of view does change and the reader does know much of what the killers are doing and are really just reading to see if Savage and his team are smart enough to uncover the criminals and to see how the criminals will react.  Some people might find this approach less suspenseful, but I did not.  Mackie, through good descriptions of the place and situation and crisp authentic dialogue, keeps the story exciting and interesting.

When I was offered to either just read this book or read the first three books first, I decided to read the full collection.  I prefer to read books in order and see how the series and the author progresses through each book.  Although I definitely think anyone can read this book without having read the others, I did get more from having done so and recommend all four books. I especially was interested in seeing how the brainy detective Jack Lindstrom worked through some personal issues through the series.  I was also interested in Savage’s relationship with his cat Ray (who has a stroke in West Side).  I was less interested with Savage’s on and off again relationship with the annoyingly unreasonable Maureen Gallo as I preferred Gina McCormick from the earlier books in the series.  Mackie’s books are definitely worth reading if you are a fan of well written police procedurals. He tells a good convincing story with a solid set of characters along with realistic and scarily violent villains. 

  • Amazon readers rating: from 7 reviews


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"East Side"

(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale MAR 19, 2006)

East Side by John Mackie

Mackie’s third book in his Manhattan South homicide detective squad, East Side, although very good, is probably the weakest of his four books.  In this book, catholic priests who had once molested a young boy to his suicide are targeted by a dying man and former classmate of the dead boy.  Savage and his team of detectives again try to determine who the killer is and why the murders are occurring.  I thought this was the weakest book in the series since the main person doing the murders was not as strong and evil as most of his other books.  I guess this is not really a bad thing--feeling somewhat sorry and almost understanding why the killings were being done.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 7 reviews


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"Manhattan North"

(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale MAR 19, 2006)

Manhattan North by John Mackie

Manhattan North, Mackie’s second book in his series of Manhattan South homicide detectives, is probably the best of the four in the series as Mackie becomes more comfortable with his style and tells a great and exciting story.  The two criminals are the best evil characters that he has created to date in the four books in the series.  Mackie again has the evil, smart, scary Luther Robinson along with the seemingly non-criminal politically connected Derek Ogden.  Thorton Savage and his team of detectives work to prove that Ogden is not who he seems and is connected with the evil Robinson and that they are both the cause of the drug war related killings.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 5 reviews

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"Manhattan South"

(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale MAR 19, 2006)

Manahattan South by John Mackie

In Manhattan South, retired NYPD detective John Mackie begins his series of the homicide detectives of New York’s Manhattan South homicide squad.   Although introducing a new series, Mackie spends most of the time presenting a great story of an initial triple murder in a New York bar that progresses into a complex investigation and more murders.  This book does seem a bit overwritten (too much descriptive words) in places as I suspect Mackie is learning his voice and style for this series.  Nonetheless, it is a great start with many exciting passages, the soon to be typical Mackie crazy violent intelligent and scary murderer. 

  • Amazon readers rating: from 6 reviews

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About the Author:

John MackieJohn Mackie was born and raised in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York. He is a retired, highly decorated 17-year veteran of the New York Police Department, where he served in the Street Crime Unit, Midtown South, Manhattan South Internal Affairs, and the Narcotics Division of the Organized Crime Control Bureau, garnering 36 medals and commendations over the course of his NYPD career. Forced to retire by an injury on the job in 1984 at the age of 43, he is now putting his unique experience to good use. He lives in Vero Beach, Florida. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014