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THE GHOST
By Marc Olden

Pocket Books, June 2000, $6.99
Paperback

Reviewed by Joseph F. Obermaier

Detective Rosalind "Ross" Magellan of the New York City Police wants revenge on Judge Adam Reimer, a corrupt judge who, by exposing her undercover work, placed her life in jeopardy and led to the death of a friend. Reimer, it seems, is an illicit gambler who pays off his debts with bribes and other ill-gotten gains.

Magellan sets a trap to nail Reimer. Her backup (her "ghost" in cop-speak) is not the only one who is watching her back. She is being stalked, and senses it, but the thrill of undercover work proves too much and overwhelms her concern for her own safety.

The gritty, urban, hardboiled police procedural is admittedly one of my least favorite genres. The genre itself can be a wonderfully entertaining one. It's just that so few writers are sharp enough to avoid the pitfalls that separate the clever from the cliched.

More of a crime novel than a mystery, this violent novel focuses on the underside of life in the big city. It is difficult to read of Mr. Olden's New York City while living in the real thing. His Big Apple is a New York so populated by hackneyed stereotypes of corrupt politicians, crooked (ex) cops, sleazy drug dealers, and other so painfully nefarious characters that it struck this city native as offensive and just plain silly.

The dialogue is awful enough to make a dime novelist cringe. For example, our heroine tells us: "The goal is deception. To blind them with science. How I get there doesn't matter. Not to me. Not to the people I work for."

The dialogue continues like this. Short. Terse. Tough. For nearly 400 pages.

This staccato rhythm would be difficult to maintain in best of circumstances, but flooding the work with a gratuitous use of police procedures and the "proper lingo" gives the book less a feeling of authenticity than the impression of a cliché-ridden TV cop show from the seventies.

Everyone is as tough as nails, and about as interesting. No one seems to enjoy anything. The characters and their motivations are revealed to us, not bit by tantalizing bit, but through highly detailed and unnatural "remember this, remember that" conversations.

Olden is telling a tale told too many times already. I've grown weary of stories about the "underbelly" of the Big Apple. Too many authors venture into the hardboiled realm, once one of the most artful, and remove all the inventiveness and play in the genre; leaving us with little but self-parody - or in this case, THE GHOST.

Other titles by this author include: FEAR'S JUSTICE. The author also has written martial arts/action oriented books, including DAI-SHO, KISAENG, GAIJIN, GIRI, and ONI.


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