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A Reckoning in Brooklyn

A Reckoning in Brooklyn

By: Michael O'Keefe
Publisher: Ingram Spark
Publication Date: November 2019
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Date: January 25, 2020

An unlikely pair of cops faced with an unsavory nest of unrepentant bad guys use their special skills to mop up the mess in New York City in the late 1970s.

The place is Brooklyn, the neighborhood Bushwick, first settled by Germans, then inundated with Italians who gradually dominated the criminal life of the neighborhood. Then the area became a stomping ground for Hispanics and others who, unable to thrive by conventional means, turned to crime and gang violence, still overseen by the established Italian overlords. Joey “Butchie” Bucciogrosso grew up on its mean streets, remarkably untouched by the corruption, though unknown to him, his own family had been brutalized in the worst possible way when a prominent capo raped his mother in “payment” for her father’s “dues” to the mob weeks before her wedding. When Butchie is fifteen, he learns of this perfidy and vows to eliminate the perpetrator and all like him.

After a harrowing, heroic stint in the Marines in Nam where he nearly loses his life saving his fellow soldiers, Butchie returns to Brooklyn and becomes a policeman. His partner is Eddie Curran, an Irish immigrant with a charming brogue and, like Butchie, no mercy in his heart for wrongdoers like the ones he observed back home and now sees in Bushwick. Both Eddie and Butchie know how to box and shoot, and are not afraid to wipe out the senseless brutality of street crime at its core – mob rule. Together they will go up against the worst sorts of mobsters – those motivated by political ambitions – and settle some old scores.

As a retired NYPD detective who was raised in New York City, O’Keefe follows one of the primary rules of composition: write about what you know. His debut novel, Shot to Pieces, shares the Brooklyn setting. In an afterward to A Reckoning in Brooklyn, he draws connecting lines between its fictional happenings and the very real ABSCAM Investigation that arose out of the New York underground and rose to the level of national political scandal. As creator of gutsy characters and twisting plots, O’Keefe applies violence and vitriol with a heavy brush. He is also at home, it seems, writing about women, who play active roles in this gang-busting saga. The personal histories of Butchie and Eddie add layers of empathy as well, as the reader will see in stark detail how amorality is not necessarily an inherited condition, and organized religion often offers only homilies, not solutions, when real evil is afoot. Fair handed, O’Keefe never neglects the human and redeemable aspects among his wide range of street savvy good and bad guys, allowing exoneration for the innocent and absolute elimination for the guilty.

Quill says: A Reckoning in Brooklyn will satisfy fans of the cops and mobsters genre, offering two indomitably tough protagonists duking it out with an almost endless stream of greedy, depraved villains.

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