Confessions Of A Catholic Cop (previously known as City Of Fire, a title which I actually prefer as there’s not really a big deal made about the Catholicism of the main character) is a debut novel by Thomas Fitzsimmons. While I was reading it, I definitely got the feeling that it wouldn’t be entirely out of place as an episode of an ’80s procedural cop show, or indeed could make a television series in itself. All the key ingredients are there: you have the buddy cop chemistry (sort of; it wouldn’t quite happen for reasons that are protected from you by the spoiler police), you have the corporation that is behind some evil development deal or other and you have the gritty streets of the Bronx as a key location.
The plot centres around a NYPD cop, Michael Beckett, getting involved with an arson case wherein several buildings are set on fire. This comes shortly after he gets a guest role on Law And Order and decides that he wants to stop being a cop and make a break into acting. This is where I took a disliking to the protagonist because, as one of his police colleagues rightly points out, it makes him feel that he’s too good to be a cop. Fair enough he’s moving up in the world, but one role on Law And Order (and a guest appearance at that) does not a permanent career make. I suppose in a way this character is based on the author himself, who left a job as a cop to become a bodyguard for some of Hollywood’s richest celebrities. This experience doing the same job as his character is no doubt responsible for the extremely realistic vibe one gets from the book.
I liked how the author handled the villain of the piece, giving him dimension and giving us a look into his thought processes. It’s refreshing to show that he doesn’t necessarily like his enterprises (for one thing, he has a family that would presumably think the worst of him for it) and that he has reasons for doing what he does, rather than just depicting him as a stereotypical villain who pops bitches and shoots puppies.
However, the character I was most fascinated with was Beckett’s partner, Vincent D’Amato. He and Beckett have a severe falling out over the course of the book, and he clearly has problems that lead to him making some incredibly stupid decisions. However, he has some darkly comic traits and moments that still make him strangely compelling. One of these is the fact that he constantly refers to his penis as “the beast”, a habit which I have sworn that I will take up at the first opportunity.
Issues with the protagonist aside, I found myself surprised at the quality of Confessions Of A Catholic Cop. One of the things that Fitzsimmons does well is dialogue and character building. I found that once I got into it, I was enjoying the book. Appropriately for the type of book that it is (that is, a gritty cop book), it does not pretend to be the next great American novel. It’s definitely aeroplane fare, but all the same I look forward to reading any other books that he may put out, perhaps in an ongoing series with an overarching bad guy. Or he could go back in time and turn it into an ’80s TV show with babes, guns, and (by our standards) atrocious fashion choices.