The Good Policeman

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Isaac Sidel, police commissioner of New York, is an unusual man. Not the least unusual of his characteristics is the residence of “the worm” in his stomach, somehow the result of the murder of one of his men, Manfred Coen, or “Blue Eyes” (documented in an earlier Sidel adventure). It is hard to tell if this worm is an actual parasite or merely an abdominal conscience, but it passes comment--and judgment--on almost all the Sidel sees and does.

Trouble starts when, because of his success in capturing a transvestite bank robber, Sidel is picked to be the first Alexander Hamilton Fellow for the Justice Department, an honor that involves touring the United States and lecturing to police departments nationwide. While on the tour, Sidel meets a young fellow named Kingsley McCardle, whose pathetic life and lack of a future upsets Sidel to the point that he cancels the rest of his tour, thereby upsetting the people over at “Justice” even more-- especially Frederic LeComte, who picked Sidel for the fellowship and is upset enough by Sidel’s defection to try and have him removed from the commissioner’s office.

Nothing is simple in this phantasmagoria. To keep track of Sidel’s antics (which include sleeping with the mayor; chasing after his lost childhood love, who seems to be both a whore and an accomplished spy; and running a secret service headed by a rogue South African cop), the reader may need a scorecard. A scorecard would also come in handy for dividing the good guys from the bad guys and for following the ins and out of the plot; Charyn’s only constant theme is Sidel’s love of baseball, and one of the best characters in the book is the Syrian clerk (or perhaps spymaster) who shares Sidel’s esoteric passion.