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Decorated Police sergeant Tom Wade is assigned to Darwin Gardens, the worst precinct in town, after cooperating with an FBI sting operation and offending the local police chief. He is given a staff of two rookie cops, as people sit back and wait for him to die. But Wade isn't willing to go quietly, and sees the opportunity to enact some real change, as he investigates several murders, and runs afoul of a local gang.


This book contains examples of:
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Wade meets a security guard, Sam Appelby, who he knew as a cop during one investigation. He comments that he'd thought Sam had been going to retire and live out the rest of his days fishing in the mountains. Sam's reasons for going back to policing (albeit not for the city)
    Sam: It's a vacation when you do it two weeks a year. It's a new kind of hell when it's your life.
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  • The Alleged Car: The three patrol cars Wade and his rookies are given have poorly cleaned vomit, urine and such in them, seats held together by duct tape, and the least used of the three has 215,000 miles on it.
  • Apathetic Citizens: About 98% of the people Wade meets, at first. The police force has given them every reason to be apathetic for the last two or three decades though, and as they watch Wade work, many of them gradually begin to get better.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Wade confronts his suspects in the murder of a pregnant housekeeper, and evokes a lot of incriminating accusations and comments by holding up a night gown he found in her storage locker and falsely claims that he’s done lab tests and like Monica Lewinsky she saved it to preserve semen samples of her lover. No tests had actually been done and that was just guesswork. Interestingly, this is probably true but Wade has simply been unable to conduct tests due to not having access to the crime lab (as the result of Chief Reardon's sabotage).
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  • Break Them by Talking: How Charlotte gets Friar Ted to confess to killing the prostitutes, pointing out how doing so leaves him unclean, and how the guilt behind it is likely why he's unable to reach his congregation.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Literally, several guns that Wade confiscates from Timo and his men at the beginning turn out to have been used in several murders once ballistics finally gets around to investigating them.
  • Cowboy Cop: Sergeant Wade morphs into one of these due to being sent to man a precinct in the city’s worst gang territory with practically no support as a Uriah Gambit by the police chief who he embarrassed by helping the FBI build a case against the mans handpicked (and heavily corrupt) major crimes unit. By page 35 he’s shot out the tires of a gangs car once they vandalize his to avoid showing weakness, and goes on to dump a murder victims body on the police chiefs lawn as a form of protest for not being given the recourses to investigate her murder, and drive a car through a wall while trying to arrest a Cop killer.
  • Cranky Landlord: Mr. Clagett is a subversion. He seems sour and gruff but he's more cynical than cranky, keeps a distance from his tenants and seems impressed enough by Wade to repair a vandalized window without being asked.
  • Crapsack World: Darwin Gardens is a cesspit, economically stunted, crime-ridden practically ignored by the police, and with various acts of gross indecency occurring in plain sight on practically every street. The rest of the city isn't that great either, with its rampant corruption.
  • Da Chief: Police Chief Reardon is a particularly toxic example, caring only about PR and his own authority, while being bigoted and sadistic.
  • Daddy's Girl: Brooke is hurt by her parents divorce, but Wade still cares for his daughter and reaches out to remain part of his life.
  • Determinator: Wade. Even as a rookie he and his partner ran a sting operation on their own time to help clear the streets of their beat.
  • Disney Villain Death: How Duke has Timo killed.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: Duke Fallon's menacing threats to Wade not to mess with his business lose their punch after Wade tells him he spilled some ice cream on his suit in the process and Duke instantly gets distracted and laments about how expensive the suit is.
  • First Day from Hell: Subverted. Wade goes through quite a bit of demeaning details on his first day on the job, but the others aren't exactly peaceful ones either and he handles it well.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Wade won't back down, and keeps doing his job no matter how easy it would be to turn his back on something sensitive.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Timo Proudfoot's fate once he becomes a liability to Duke Fallon.
  • Meaningful Name: Darwin Gardens is driven very much by survival of the fittest.
  • Ms. Red Ink: One of Wade's corrupt colleagues (who is holding his family hostage during the opening scene) goes on a rant to his wife about how it's all her fault that he turned to crime, due to her being such a spendthrift, pointing out how she even had the Home Shopping Network on while they were having sex, although she claims that this was more to keep their kids from hearing them.
  • The One Who Made It Out:
    • Mandy Guthrie left Darwin Gardens with an English degree but came back after failing to sell a novel, and to help her father when her mom died.
    • Murder victim Glory Littleton badly wanted to be this, but her methods (sleeping with her employer and his son, and possibly acting as a middleman between the son and a drug dealer) leave a bit to be desired.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Billy, a former retail worker who graduated at the very bottom of his class, and is one of Wade's subordinates. He displays a goofy earnestness towards the job, cheerfully talks to Wade about how there was a picture of him on the target range at the police academy and spends his first day searching through the old DVD cases in the precinct (which used to be a porno store) for any movies that got left behind.
  • Rich Bitch: The murderer of one of the plotlines ultimately comes across as this. She throws a fit when being driven back to the police station in the slum that the victim (her maid) came from, saying she isn’t one of those people and he can’t keep her there, and physically resisting his efforts to take her to that station.
  • Sad Clown: Friar Ted is a jovial, sympathetic presence for most of the novel, making light of his somewhat self-appointed role as the local street preacher, but harbors deep sadness and anger about how much his efforts have been ignored by the various derelicts of the neighborhood, which has led him to start killing prostitutes.
  • Serial Killer: Several Darwin Gardens prostitutes have been murdered by Friar Ted with the investigation taking up a subplot.
  • Scenery Gorn: The decrepit buildings and streets of King City get described in vivid detail.
  • Team Chef: Peter Guthrie, who owns the pancake joint next to the police station fills some of this role.
  • Token Minority: King City is only 3% black, making Charlotte this to both the story, and the police force (the reason she was sent to Darwin Gardens by the bigoted, misogynistic Reardon despite her exemplary performance at the academy).
  • The Unfettered: Wade is aware of how easy it would be not to pick so many hard battles, and he understands why so many of the other people in his life don't. But the destruction of his marriage, being sent on a Uriah Gambit, being forced to set up an office in a former porn store which wasn't repaired after an arson, and being constantly denied support at every angel never make him despair or give up.
  • Uriah Gambit: Wade is assigned to Darwin Gardens out of the hope that he'll be killed or quit, preferably the former.
  • Villain of Another Story: Duke Fallon is the biggest crime lord in the city, but over the course of the novel, doesn't go after Wade, watching his progress with some interest and amusement, encouraging his investigations into the murder of the prostitutes.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Duke enjoys watching Dancing with the Stars calmly asking if he can get back to it after having Timo killed for being a liability.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Wade resents his former partner for becoming more selfish and narrow-winded about what cases are worth solving, while his partner resents him for not confiding in him when he was helping the FBI, and also for thinking that Darwin Gardens is worth helping.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Timo threatens to rape and kill Wade's fourteen year-old daughter.
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