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Kop    by Warren Hammond order for
by Warren Hammond
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Readers of noir mysteries will enjoy Warren Hammond's Kop, despite the fact that it's set on another world far, far away. Lagarto, with a once booming economy, morphed into a poverty stricken slum planet after its main export of a unique brandy was replicated artificially and produced more cheaply elsewhere. Most of the story's action takes place in Lagarto's capital city of Koba.

The planet's entire police force is corrupt starting at the top with Koba Police Chief Paul Chang, who is also the close friend of Kop's protagonist Juno. Juno lives with Niki, who pressures him to retire but uses drugs to manage her own devils. Juno is a dirty cop, who opted out of his enforcer role for Paul - assuring payoffs on the prostitution and drug trades - after his drinking got out of hand. His backstory - and how he evolved from an idealistic young police officer to an aging vice cop with a shaking hand that he attempts to hide from both colleagues and criminals - is revealed to us gradually through the book, in surprising dribs and drabs.

Paul assigns Juno to investigate the murder of an Army officer, partnering him with rookie, rich policewoman Maggie Orzo. Paul is being closely monitored by an anticorruption faction in the mayor's office and fears he's somehow being set up, so wants his close friend to handle matters. A skilled policeman, and with help from Maggie, Juno tracks down a witness to the murder, as well as surprising facts about the victim. The plot continues to incorporate crime lords warring over the city, a serial killer, political power plays, slavery, and an old and very powerful enemy of Juno's, who rouses his ire as no-one else can.

As often happens in this sort of mystery, its antihero has to hit rock bottom before the plot's upswing. Ruthless to the shooting star of an ending, a cynical Juno orchestrates his revenge and changes his world - just a little - for the better. Those who enjoy noir SF mystery will delight in Kop and be glad to hear that a sequel is in the works.

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