Warren Hammond
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Buy *Ex-KOP* by Warren Hammond

Warren Hammond
320 pages
September 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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This is an excellent sequel to Hammond’s equally excellent first book, KOP. Just like its predecessor, Ex-KOP is a noir detective story set far into the future and on a very poor planet where most of the people seem to be fighting just to survive.

Not too long ago, the planet Lagarta was actually thriving because of the local liquor business. That business didn't last, unfortunately, and when it went down the majority of the people on the planet lost their livelihood. They can't even afford to travel off-planet to look for jobs. The almost constant rain adds to the atmosphere of depression and desperation, where the police are corrupt and so are the officials. The capital city, Koba, is the largest city on the planet, surrounded by a jungle and plantations which are ruled by the local warlords and drug dealers.

For decades Juno Mozambe was the main enforcer of the Chief of Police Chang, and together they ran the Koba Office of Police with an iron hand. Now Juno has been kicked out of KOP and the former chief is dead. Juno does pretty much any work he can, mostly secretly filming off-worlders in embarrassing or shocking situations and selling the pictures to scandal magazines. Then his former KOP partner, Maggie Orzo, contacts him. Earlier, Maggie had arrested Adela Juarez for killing her parents. The women is slated for execution, but now Maggie thinks Adela might be innocent. She wants Juno to investigate. Desperate for money, Juno agrees.

When Maggie’s current partner, Ian Davies, finds out that Juno has talked to Adela, he and his cronies ambush Juno. First Ian breaks the fingers on Juno’s right hand to punish him for getting involved in an old case - and then he wants Juno to spy on Maggie for him. Juno has no choice but to agree, but still loyal to Maggie, he turns into a very unhappy double agent between the two cops, reporting everything to Maggie while trying to keep Ian in the dark.

At the same time, Maggie and Ian are officially investigating a brutal serial killer who has already murdered fourteen people – including a cop. The perpetrator is skillful enough to leave no clues behind. Also, Juno’s wife, Niki, is in the hospital. Niki has harbored a terrible secret all her life and finally tried to kill herself. She succeeded in breaking her body, but thanks to modern medicine she is still alive. Juno is trying desperately to raise enough money to grow a new spine for her while she begs him to let her die.

The atmosphere of Ex-KOP is quite depressing in the fine tradition of noir detective stories. Almost everyone is corrupt, and the only difference between them is how far they will go for money. The locals are mostly achingly poor, while the off-worlders outside Lagarta tend to be very wealthy.

Juno is a drunk who would do almost anything for money, and his glory days are far behind him. He does still have his pride and some shreds of loyalty both to Maggie and Niki. Maggie comes from one of the few very rich Lagartan families, an idealist who wants to become the Chief of Police and then clean up the city. Juno believes that she can do it; he also realizes that he has to protect her from becoming as cynical as he is.

The villains are even more contemptible. Ian Davies is dirty even among Kobe’s corrupt cops, ambitious and ruthless. The off-worlders exploit the locals freely. Hammond’s fast-paced plot and writing style follow the tradition of hard-boiled detective stories; no human vice seems to be left untouched.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Mervi Hamalainen, 2009

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