The Whites, by Harry Brandt

Three stars (of five)

Brandt lures readers with his raw style and no-holds barred approach to life as a member of the NYPD. Billy Graves has been on he job for a number of years, following in his father’s footsteps. Early in his career, the younger Graves befriends  number of young cops looking to make a difference and seeking justice on the rough and tumble streets. They refer to themselves as the Wild Geese and become as close to Graves as his actual family. Over the years, the Wild Geese spoke of the ‘Whites’, those criminals who were surely guilty but were able to dodge the evidence to keep them on the outside. These are the criminals who haunt the dreams of every cop, with little chance for legal retribution. After a few unsavoury choices, Graves ends up as the sergeant of the Night Watch, a collection of cops who work overnights, sweeping up the criminal detritus and connecting with inner-city neighbourhoods. When the Night Watch is called to a stabbing at Penn Station, the victim ends up being the ‘White’ of his closest friend and fellow Wild Geese member, who traded in the shield long ago. As Graves investigates, he discovers that more ‘Whites’ may have met similar ends, with no answers to point him in the right direction. On the home front, someone is lurking the shadows, causing Graves’ family much grief but leaving little in the form of concrete evidence. Once his children are approached and his father briefly abducted, Graves has no choice but to investigate, poking around on his off-hours. Brandt creates a curious sub-plot with Milton Ramos, who receives inter-chapter vignettes throughout the story. As Graves progresses throughout the novel, it is only a matter of time before Ramos must cross his path, decades in the planning. Brandt offers up a highly intriguing, if not overly confusing snapshot of life in the crime-heavy Big Apple.

Having a hard time digesting the review up to this point? Trying reading (or listening) to the novel firsthand. When first I attempted to tackle the book, I found it scattered and without a clear thread. It was only when I gave it a second attempt, pressing myself to be highly attentive, that I found my niche and was able to digest all that was on offer. The backstories mesh so fluidly with current events, leaving the reader to categorise what has happened, will happen, and is happening, all in an attempt to enjoy a crime novel. However, with patience comes the gift that Brandt has quite the story to tell and that, given the chance, Billy Graves may even grow on you. Fighting crime by night and the saintly life of raising a family by day, Graves and his wife offer the reader a wonderful insight into New York and all it has to offer. Interesting sub-plots, but definitely too ‘busy’ with cases and calls, Brandt illustrates the down and dirty like no one I have seen since Will Beall presented L.A. Rex. 

Kudos, Mr. Brandt for all your hard work and captivating plot lines. A far cry better than any James Patterson attempt at NYPD work, but still a little too confusing for my liking.