John Perich, “Too Hard To Handle” (2012) – What better time to catch up with a friendrade’s thriller e-book series than when working the tail end of a tedious, low-energy temp job? The second installment of the adventures of Mara Cunningham, a news photographer with a knack for getting into sticky situations, moves along at a propulsive pace and delivers the genre goods.
Mara finds herself up against two seemingly insurmountable forces: cop pathos and disappointing family. Her older brother, a small-time hooligan and many-time loser, had been missing for a decade after a score gone bad, but he seems to be back. He’s tied to a string of cop-killings that send Boston and it’s police into the sort of heightened state of vengeful paranoia that the police (and, arguably, the city, proportions of it anyway) seem to be always waiting to jump into.
The truth is considerably more complicated than “improbably daring hoodlum suddenly becomes cop-assassin” or “innocent man framed,” and its into that murk that Mara must dive. That’s a dangerous place to be- immersed in a besieged-victim mentality, the police, including “good” cops with whom Mara has long-standing relationships, are in no mood to parse subtleties or put up with someone outside of the tribe looking into matters. That Mara finds a trail of police corruption and violence as she tries to bring her brother in peacefully doesn’t dissuade the blue wall very much.
The denouement — the exact scheme the crooked cops and Mara’s brother were in on, and how and why it went wrong — is a little foggy, but the takeaway is clear enough. Vengeful unaccountable power calls forward poorly-conceived revenge (which makes power more vengeful and less accountable), and we’re all caught in it, one way or another. ****’