Ed Dee The Con Man's Daughter Reviewed by Terry D'Auray

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The Con Man's Daughter

Ed Dee

Mysterious Press/Warner Books Inc.

US Hardcover First

ISBN: 0-89296-794-3

Publication Date: November, 2003

279 Pages; $23.95

Date Reviewed: April 13, 2004

Reviewed by: Terry D'Auray © 2004




There's always a quandary when picking up a book written by a former cop. On the one hand, a former cop has got real stories to tell and the inside skinny on the procedures, processes and people who deal with crime and criminals on a daily basis. They've been there, they've seen that. On the other hand, not every former cop commands the writing skills to tell those stories with panache and to flesh out those people, both victims and criminals, in a convincing, readable way. No fears on either count with Ed Dee, a former lieutenant with NYPD's Organized Crime Unit for twenty years who's also fully schooled in both the art and science of writing a compelling crime narrative that blends authenticity with character and fast-paced action with poetic reflection.

Eddie Dunne, the con man of 'The Con Man's Daughter, is an ex-NYPD cop, ex-boxer, and, now in his 50s, an ex-enforcer for an aging Russian mob boss. He's leading a quiet and simple life in Yonkers with his daughter and granddaughter. The kidnapping of his daughter, Kate, shatters that quiet life. The kidnapping is clearly vengeance for some misdeed in Eddie's past, a past that provides oh-so-many misdeeds to choose from. Eddie must isolate what he did and to whom, that's motivated this heinous revenge. Working both in tandem and in opposition to NY and Yonkers police and the Feds, relying on his Russian contacts and old Italian mobsters, Eddie pursues the return of his daughter with a single mindedness that's both understandable and obsessive.

'The Con Man's Daughter' sets up as a classic action story of mobsters, violence and vengeance, and it delivers on that set-up with page-turning pace and stomach turning brutality. The Russian mobsters are particularly smart, and particularly ruthless. Eddie Dunne's single-mindedness and violent hot temper, driven by equal parts frustration and guilt, could easily condemn him to narrative life as just another bully with a badge, a genre-generic loner with fast fists and big guns. As a bad guy hunting worse guys in quest of his daughter, Eddie bulls through one ill-conceived confrontation to another, shooting and smashing anyone in his way, and getting himself plenty well shot, smashed, beaten and bruised in the process. Were that but it, 'The Con Man's Daughter' would read like any number of action-packed, bull-on-the-loose stories in this genre.

But Dee's former life as a cop lends unique authenticity to the descriptions of the infighting and posturing of the cops versus the feds, the Russian versus the Italian mobsters, police procedures versus the techniques of gangsters. With convincing detail, Dee explains how to make big money in gas tax fraud or Medicare fraud, and then how to go about laundering all that loot once you've got it.

Dee pulls off some subtle magic midst all this action, building Eddie's character along with the plot in ways that ring true and with insights that ring poetic. In economical and evocative prose, Dee slowly creates a genuine character in Eddie, violent, self-reliant and wild to be sure, but also repentant, reflective, caring and surprisingly likeable. While never abandoning either pace or plot, Dee sneaks in some heart, some good old-fashioned family values and a bit of stoical Irish humor to lighten the dark doings. And almost unheard of in a book like this, Dee creates a love interest who's neither a Bond girl nor a tag-along. In fact, she's not a girl at all, but a middle-aged female cop with guts and with far more good sense than Eddie is likely ever to have. We'll just forget about the psychotic lesbian villain for now - it's the newest trend in crime fiction and already tired. 'The Con Man's Daughter' delivers action, violence, mobsters and cops, along with character, compassion and tenderness - all with Dee's unique authenticity, insight and spare but compelling prose.