A Bad Night's Sleep
A Joe Kozmarski Mystery by Michael Wiley
Review: Former Chicago cop, now PI Joe Kozmarski is on an overnight stake-out watching for warehouse thieves, only to be surprised when the cops show up — to break in and steal the merchandise themselves — in A Bad Night's Sleep, the third mystery in this series by Michael Wiley.
Not sure what to do, Kozmarski is instructed by his client to call the cops, who do show up, and appear to be in a stand-off with their brethren as he watches from the sidelines. Suddenly one of the bad cops seems to hold up a gun, as if to shoot one of the good ones, and Kozmarski fires his own gun, killing him. By the time all is said and done, three cops are dead, two seriously injured … and Kozmarski under arrest for murder. He's released pending a full investigation, but the newspapers have already labeled him a "cop killer", no matter that the cop he shot was on the verge of firing his own gun on one of his own. An old buddy still on the force offers Kozmarski a chance to redeem himself and take down the bad cops, who are inexplicably being protected by their own superiors. When someone asks him "What's wrong with you?", he vents his frustration. "Where do I start? I shot a cop because I figured that if I didn't he'd kill some innocent men. Then the innocent men threw me in jail for three days. For trying to save them, I guess. When they let me out they convinced me to join up with the guys who were shooting at them. Why would anything be wrong?"
A Bad Night's Sleep is an intricately plotted crime novel involving a convoluted scheme for the good guys to catch the bad guys. Except that it's never quite clear which is which. That ambiguity is certainly part of its appeal. But the sheer number of bad guys is depressing, leading one to believe there isn't an honest soul paid to serve and protect the citizens of Chicago. Even Kozmarski himself is a bit of a rogue, too bull-headed for his own good, rarely doing the "right" thing when given a chance. Of course, what the "right" thing is is hard to ascertain, kind of the lesser of two evils approach to decision making. One of the characters, talking to Kozmarski, sums up his situation quite succinctly:
You can work with us and come out a little dirtied but alive. Or you can do it alone with one chance in a hundred of coming out clean, ninety-nine chances of coming out dead or filthy. I'd think the choice would be easy. But guys like you take that one chance. I don't think you're courageous and I don't think you're just a bad gambler. I think you're afraid, scared to death of just getting by if getting by means compromising a little. Guys like you make no sense to me but that's what I think.
Complicated to be sure, A Bad Night's Sleep is most certainly an interesting mystery, one with all sorts of wrong turns and dead-end alleys in its plot. And it's definitely a mystery that keeps one's attention. But with few (surprising) exceptions, most characters seem to lack a moral compass, leaving Kosmarski — and by extension, the reader — with the need to keep moving forward yet unsure that where he is headed is where he wants to be.
Acknowledgment: Minotaur Books provided a copy of A Bad Night's Sleep for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in A Bad Night's Sleep: Chicago, Illinois
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A Bad Night's Sleep by Michael Wiley — A Joe Kozmarski Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: June 2011
List Price: $24.99