Cops Lie! by Leonard Love Matlick

★★★  Detective Tony Philadelphia has seen a lot of terrible things during his time as a protector of New York City, but it seems to him that the situation has gotten a lot worse in recent years. After a car accident involving several police officers reveals the cops’ connection to local mobsters, Tony becomes embroiled in a case of corruption that stretches across the city and has the potential to bring the entire police department crumbling to the ground. With the help of his partner, Ed Longo, Tony sets out to find where the trail of dishonesty leads, though if he is not careful, he just might end up falling victim to the same criminal sources.

Cops Lie! is driven by the author’s strong, authoritative voice, which brings clarity to the plot’s looser narrative cul-de-sacs. The main character, Tony, is modeled after a few of crime fiction’s best male leads, and he serves as a logical and relatable lodestone for the novel. It hardly seems a coincidence that a book so heavily engaged with the topic of police brutality should be published at a time like this, especially in the wake of bestsellers like Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give receiving well-deserved attention this year. But while novels like Thomas’s build tension on the back of a single scenario, Cops Lie! makes the mistake of too passionately trying to illustrate the faults of the modern American police force. Whereas one or two scenes of wrongful altercations in a novel might be considered powerful, the author includes these scenes in nearly every chapter, the cumulative effect of which is to reduce each subsequent scene’s ability to render emotion in the reader. Perhaps that is the author’s very intent: to mirror what is happening in today’s media, and to show how quickly a person becomes desensitized to violence when it is presented as a daily occurrence. If that is the case, then Cops Lie! is a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of turning a blind eye to injustice, and of ascribing too much power to any group of people.

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