Samantha “Smack” Mack is a Chicago cop who drinks and smokes as much as her male counterparts. She’s The Wire‘s Jimmy McNulty on estrogen. One night, Smack and partner/ex-lover Fred go into a dark house one night to bust a child molester. Shots are fired, and Smack wakes up in the hospital with a concussion and a dead partner. The police decide she shot him in the dark, a friendly fire accident. Of course, that would only take up four chapters – great for an ebook, lousy for a hardcover. Instead, Theresa Schwegel’s debut police thriller follows Smack on a dark, twisted path involving police corruption and a perp who is not everything he sees.
It’s not a bad debut, but Schwegel’s protagonist is hard to like. Smack is stubborn, arrogant, and reckless. She tries to be tough and independent, but can become clingy and jealous at the drop of a hat. She even has a married boyfriend she doesn’t trust but can’t be without. It takes a deft hand to make that sort of character likeable. Schwegel manages it, but the results are choppy. Not bad for a first novel, though.