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Without Fear or Favor (A Butch Karp-Marlene…
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Without Fear or Favor (A Butch Karp-Marlene Ciampi Thriller Book 29)

by Robert K. Tanenbaum

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Among many other legal posts, Tanenbaum has been a prosecutor, an Assistant District Attorney, has taught law, and served two terms as mayor of Beverly Hills, California. He’s termed a “New York Times” bestselling author of some thirty-two books,. This is the 29th book in the long-running series of legal thrillers featuring New York City District Attorney Roger “Butch” Karp and his wife, investigator Marlene Ciampi. How could one man do all that? Easy. He didn’t.
In a rather notorious (in writing circles) revelation in 2003, Tanenbaum’s cousin, Michael Gruber revealed he had ghostwritten the “bestselling author’s” novels, the two had parted ways, and he was pursuing his own writing career. Followed by a rather inexpert successor, the quality of Tanenbaum’s books reportedly suffered, then for a while it appeared more expert hands were at the tiller. I knew none of this when I read Without Fear or Favor, but Tanenbaum’s hunt for a good ghostwriter should continue.
The new novel tells the story of a white cop murdered by a black militant who uses the nom de guerre, Nat X. Nat X says there’s a war on black people, and cops are the enemy. He does murder a policeman early in the story, then entices a teenager to shoot another one, and the remainder of the book is about bringing him to justice.
In some respects, this book is the antithesis of Don Winslow’s The Force, also about black-white relations in New York City as they collide within the criminal justice system. In Winslow’s book, corruption is rampant; in Tanenbaum’s, aside from three vigilante cops, duly punished, the police, the investigators, and the prosecutors are models of probity. Their solid ideals are revealed in unrealistic lengthy statements, more like essays than realistic conversations.
If these editorial opinions were confined to one or two characters, you can accept that they reflect a particular character’s point of view, but they also appear in the narration, which becomes indistinguishable from the characters’ “good citizenship” and “flaws in the system” lectures.
Targets of the narrator’s ire are the news media (“The New York Times, having admitted in the previous news cycle to giving up any attempt at objectivity in its news columns . . .”), black activists, of course, and white liberals. Even the educational system comes in for abuse, with public schools described as dangerous places where successful learning was impossible—“such was the nature and cruelty of low expectations.”
In addition to constant editorializing, the writer has a bad habit of introducing a bolus of backstory every time a new character is introduced, but it is backstory of the most superficial kind. It doesn’t explore the individual at all, and you’re left to apply whatever assumptions you may have about someone described as a product of “only the finest prep schools.”
Unsurprisingly, the story is loaded with clichés and stereotyped and cardboard characters. Still, there are some truly odd features, one of which is District Attorney Karp’s receptionist’s name, Darla Milquetoast. Since a fictional character has name of the author’s choosing, why choose such a strange one? According to the 2010 Census, there is not one person in the United States with that last name. But, ok, if that’s the name, why continue to give it in full every time the character appears? It’s obvious the name is intended as some kind of clever joke. Likewise, both the murdered policeman, Tony Cippio, and Nat X (real name: Anthony Johnson, Jr.) have the same first name—that surely isn’t accidental, but what does it mean?
Perhaps most puzzling are the courtroom scenes of Nat X’s trial. I wonder whether Tanenbaum even read them. The defense attorney is not a worthy adversary for Karp, which greatly undercuts the tension of the trial. Moreover, her deceptive behavior is at odds with ethical legal practice. ( )
  Vicki_Weisfeld | Oct 9, 2017 |
I have read many books in this series now. I have really grown to like Butch. He is at the top of his game. I would not want to be the opposing attorney in the courtroom. Many have tried and failed to bring Butch down. He is like an inflatable punching bag. You can hit him and knock him down as many times as you want but he comes right back up and if you don't watch yourself you might get hit back. It was a nice surprise to see Butch's love interest, Marlene make a brief appearance. I am a fan of this couple.

This book reads like an episode of Law & Order but the true story that inspires the episode. It features a war raged between white cops and blacks. However, Mr. Tanenbaum was smart in the way he portrayed this story. He did not make it one sided. In fact, some of the cops were mixed race. Although, what I have enjoyed more and more with these books is seeing Butch in action in the court room. This book is a definite one seat read! I look forward to checking out the next book in this series. ( )
  Cherylk | Jul 11, 2017 |
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When a cop shoots down the son of a respected inner-city Baptist preacher, the community rises up in anger and demands to have the officer prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But there's something more than a call for justice at work here: a plot to bring down the city's police force through a conspiracy so vast and malicious only Butch Karp and his band of truth-seekers can untangle it. Now Karp and his wife Marlene Ciampi must stop a radical organization of armed militants bent on the cold-blooded murder of uniformed on-duty police officers.… (more)

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