A review of Shot to Pieces: A Novel by Michael O’Keefe
Review by Thonie Hevron
Blurb: SHOT TO PIECES is the story of NYPD 1st Grade Detective Padraig Joseph Durr. Durr is tasked with solving a particularly grisly gang related homicide in Brooklyn. When Paddy catches the squeal, he is also on the verge of an emotional and psychological breakdown. Because of his penchant for self-destruction, fueled by a childhood of abuse and sexual exploitation, coupled with an ingrained sense of worthlessness and abandonment, Durr has brought his entire life to the brink of ruin. Can he hold it together long enough to solve this murder? Can he fix himself enough to be re-united with the one true love of his life and his family? Or will he implode, irrevocably destroying his career, his family and himself?
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by fellow Public Safety Writers Association author Michael O’Keefe. He asked me to read and review his debut novel, Shot to Pieces: A Novel. I told him that I would happily read it as it is a genre in which I write—police procedural, but I don’t do book reviews on my blog. I don’t have an MFA, nor any formal education in literature. I felt unqualified to make a comprehensive review. I am religious about leaving reviews on Amazon, however, and that is what I told him I’d do. We exchanged books the next day. He read mine and posted a very nice 5-star review on Amazon. Read it here.
I, however, was bogged down enough that I couldn’t finish his book until today. I began Shot to Pieces with the expectation of reading a depressing police procedural. Check out the blurb above to see why. But I’d committed to read the book, so I read on.
And boy, am I glad I did! This was one exciting, wild ride with a lot of heart. I’m a west coast law enforcement veteran, so some of the situations hero Paddy Durr gets himself into seem foreign to me. But here’s the deal: they are believable. I can see these things happening during an active career. As can be expected, NYPD differs from small town agencies I worked for. But the personalities of the other detectives, brass, and mutts are collages of many personalities I know!
And the hero, Paddy Durr, has many traits—both desirable and unfortunate—that make him a realistic and exciting protagonist. He’s prone to trouble—you already know that. But his observations on the job are stunning, particularly one in Chapter 27 where his fiancé asks why all the cops in the area come to see him while he’s being treated in the ER. I’ll start the paragraph for you, but you’ll have to read it for the full effect. “Active cops are a different breed. We’re the gunfighters, the alpha dogs of the police department. We’re not special, just different. … So, this pilgrimage is as much away to say I’m glad we’re not meeting at your funeral as it is to say thank you for reminding me to get my head out of my ass. An event like this forces everybody to get back on their A-game.”
Every page is laced with an unusual combination of intelligence, testosterone, and heart. It’s gritty, it’s real, and moved me to tears a few times. Make no mistake: Paddy’s story is basically a love story—his love for the job and all it stands for as well as his love for his wife and family. However, if you’re a romance reader, take a pass on this book.
But if you enjoy police procedurals like Michael Connelly and Joseph Wambaugh, this is right up your alley. I may not have the ed creds to analyze Shot to Pieces (aside from a little head-hopping now and then) but I know what I like.
So, it’s my blog and I can break my own rules: I highly recommend Shot to Pieces: A Novell!