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Book Review: Cop Job

Cop Job is the latest installment of the Sam Aquillo Hamptons Mysteries.  The series is the creation of author Chris Knopf, who lives and works in Connecticut and Long Island.

In Cop Job, Sam Aquillo scours the East End of Long Island for clues to solve the brutal murder of a good friend. Book critic Joan Baum has this review:

You’re 59 and still “attractive” and “vibrant,” a woman on the make tells him. But Sam Aquillo, ex-CEO corporate engineer, ex-professional boxer, ex-husband, freelance wood worker, self styled private investigator and constant witty smart mouth, already has a lady love, Amanda. He also has a dog he adores named for the rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen, a beloved 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix, a sailboat called “Carpe Manana,” and a love of Long Island sunsets and vodka to watch them by.

Sam came on the crime fiction scene five books ago when Chris Knopf invented Sam and surrounded him with eccentric gals and pals.

In his new thriller called Cop Job Knopf once more sets Sam tooling around the East End of Long Island to solve a brutal murder, whether or not the police and Suffolk County prosecutors like it. They don’t, but they’re grateful even as they grouse that he interferes with their investigations and always leaves more blood.

True enough, but when Sam’s not punching out some punk, he can be found lounging around reading Candide . . . in French. Or refining hypotheses about Who Dunnit. Only he seems to appreciate the fact that major players in crime capers are “territorial, conspiratorial, manipulative, unreliable, or certifiably insane. Or all of the above.”

In Cop Job, Sam links up again with Jackie Swaitkowski a funny female lawyer from Sag Harbor. For a couple of years Jackie had her own detective series, and though her adventures proved engaging, there’s nothing like two sarcastic mouths for the price of one.

Cop Job delivers not only these attractive, sassy characters , but a nifty narrative full of intriguing plot complications having to do with confidential informants and home town corruption -- money-fueled politicos and a thriving Hamptons drug trade. But this time, the baddies viciously go after Sam’s daughter to send him a message. Big mistake.

A Sam Acquillo novel is always more than a well-wrought plot and complex characters, however. Knopf has a fine eye for the quiet beauty of the East End, particularly around Little Peconic Bay. He also has a good ear for capturing the cadences of local chat. And he knows how to fashion a theme about the quirks of human nature that also allows for some timely, trenchant social criticism. Here’s Sam on his love of sailing: “For me, the point of sailing was to ghost along under a moderate breeze while avoiding drunken idiots in big powerboats who thought spending about $100,000 a minute producing deafening noise and spine-crushing vibration was fun.” Keep cruising Sam, keep cruising.

Joan Baum is a recovering academic from the City University of New York, who spent 25 years teaching literature and writing. She covers all areas of cultural history but particularly enjoys books at the nexus of the humanities and the sciences.
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