Despite some minor brushes with the law in his youth and a degree from Harvard, Edward Conlon’s decision at age thirty to join the New York City Police Department was probably inevitable. Police work was in his blood—his maternal grandfather was a NYPD cop (of dubious reputation), as was his uncle, and his father, who had hoped for a different life for his son.
Conlon began his career patrolling the housing projects in the South Bronx, a duty which presented more “aid” calls than opportunities for arrest, as he wrestled with mild-mannered house cats turned vicious and rescued elderly citizens horribly neglected by their families. Moving on to the Narcotics Division, he enjoyed the adrenaline rush of drug busts, while bemoaning the frustratingly cyclical nature of the process. Eventually he earned a promotion to detective, a position he continued to hold while writing Blue Blood.
Conlon weaves his own family stories throughout the narrative, as well as a history of the NYPD from the prohibition era to the crack cocaine explosion of the early 1990’s. More fascinating, however is his depiction of the routine, often tedious aspects of the job, including gathering information from informants, obtaining warrants, processing paperwork, surviving petty office politics, and enjoying humorous camaraderie with his partners.
Packed with history, events, and people, Blue Blood ultimately lacks cohesion and narrative momentum. Conlon crowds in too many overly detailed incidents, characters, and even acronyms for the reader to easily absorb, and the repetition of many similar episodes tends to lessen their effectiveness rather than enhance it. A little judicious editing could have turned an interesting but flawed book into a powerful memoir.