Review: NYPD Detective Artie Cohen is drawn uptown to help investigate the mysterious death of an elderly, white woman living in a largely black-occupied Harlem apartment building in Blood Count, the ninth mystery in this series by Reggie Nadelson.
Cohen receives a frantic call from former girlfriend Lily Hanes, who says she discovered her neighbor dead — apparently of natural causes — yet when he arrives at the aging apartment building, another resident, also a detective, is on the scene, though not in an official capacity. Then again, neither is Cohen. He's puzzled why 911 was never called and more importantly, why Lily and the detective are determined to get a local doctor — yet another neighbor — to sign a death certificate, as if they're both trying to hush something up … which begs the question, why call him? The case gets even more complicated when he learns another resident died six months earlier, a man who shared the same primary care physician as the dead woman, a Russian immigrant who may have ties to still a third death Cohen is — this time officially — investigating: a man stabbed through the chest with a note attached, quoting the Communist Manifesto.
There are a number of strong elements to this strong, whodunit-style thriller, not the least of which is the complicated relationships between all the principal characters … living and dead. It's an interesting mix here: racial (black and white), political (Communist east and capitalist west), the present and the past in the form of new (progress) versus old (tradition). Much of the action takes place in the once graceful, now somewhat decrepit and often dimly lit Harlem apartment building, adding a claustrophobic feel to the story. That Cohen is acting in a gray area of the law — he's not officially authorized to be where he is — also heightens the suspense. And then there's the remarkable, complex character of Cohen himself. Consider this passage from late in the book:
When you first start, you think the hard part about being a cop will be the streets, the creeps and crooks and killers. You think about the victims, the bodies, the blood, the morgue. If you're any kind of human being, the stuff, especially when it involves kids, makes you feel sick ...
[But a]s bad for me is the history — the victim's, the killer's. You turn back page after page, interrogations, transcripts, confessions, diaries, letters, heart racing, stomach turning, cold sweat on your neck, knowing it will reveal something terrible, the grim hidden secrets.
Blood Count is a superb example of an intricately crafted, multi-layered novel of suspense, the ending of which — the whodunit, if you will — will likely come as a surprise to most readers.
Acknowledgment: Bloomsbury USA provided a copy of Blood Count for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Blood Count: New York City
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Blood Count by Reggie Nadelson — An Artie Cohen Mystery
Publication Date: October 2010
List Price: $26.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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