NYPD Lieutenant Clancy is assigned to protect organized crime leader Johnny Rossi—and soon is busy trying to discover who wants the mobster dead. Full of vivid characters including bumbling police officers, a corrupt district attorney, and a mob boss who isn’t what he seems, this classic crime novel will keep you on the edge of your seat.
When famed gangster kingpin Johnny Rossi comes to New York to testify against his crime syndicate associates, it falls under the purview of Lieutenant Clancy to keep the government’s star witness safe. But why is it that Rossi has come to New York from California, and what exactly is so crucial about his testimony? District Attorney Chalmers keeps the answers to these questions to himself. But guarding Rossi turns out to be a much more difficult and perplexing task and the plot much more sinister than Clancy had anticipated.
What makes this novel so interesting is the character of Clancy, who was later immortalized in film by actor Steve McQueen in the film Bullitt. Clancy is a tough, jaded, and world-weary detective. In many ways, Clancy is a lone wolf, but not by his choice; the police officers under his command are almost unfailingly incompetent, and the District Attorney treats Clancy with a mix of skepticism and disdain. Add to this the sinister machinations of the underworld bosses and hitmen, and Clancy is a man beset on all sides by ineptitude, perfidy, and malice. The author is careful not to put his protagonist on a pedestal however. Clancy is neither incredibly wise nor remarkably principled; he possesses instead common sense, a vague idea of duty, and a gritty stoicism. These qualities are sufficient to see him through his tough assignments, and in the final account, also distinguish him from just about every other character in the novel.
The relentlessness of Clancy’s work and the endlessness of his days and nights are emphasized by the chapter breaks, which record the exact time and date of his round-the-clock schedule. Clancy is exhausted, and Fish periodically reminds us of the scant hours of sleep that his character gets.
Although his orders are to guard the marked man Rossi, Clancy, compelled by something more than his fears of losing his job, begins to investigate the things he is not supposed to question, let alone suppose an answer for. He is over his head and working beyond the scope of his given duty but in this story, what exactly that duty is and to whom he owes it become increasingly hazy.