Harbor Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh

Harbor Nocturne  by  Joseph Wambaugh

Mysterious Press

        Joseph Wambaugh has been heralded as the “father of the modern police novel.”  In his latest book, Harbor Nocturne, he reminds us why he deserves that title.  Set in San Pedro, a district in southern Los Angeles, the plot focuses primarily on a young immigrant woman named Lita Medina and a longshoreman named Dinko Babitch.  When their paths cross in a Hollywood nightclub, both of their lives will be inexorably changed as they are dragged into the dark underworld of human trafficking following the disappearance of one of the dancers in the club and the discovery of more than a dozen bodies in a shipping container.

This book also features the return of many of the characters of the Hollywood Station series.  The author takes us on a whirlwind tour of the stranger places in Los Angeles with familiar characters like Flotsam and Jetsam, the Unicorn, Hollywood Nate, and several new members of the crew.  Wambaugh takes what could be one-note quirky characters and develops them into rich, full people that make us laugh with their jokes and ache at their pain.  He grants us a glimpse into the lives of the officers patrolling the streets through their superstitions and the varied ways of dealing with difficult or tragic situations like no other author could.

Blending humor, violence, love, tragedy, and suspense, Wambaugh crafts a flawless tale that is not to be missed.  The patrol scenes with various members of the Hollywood Station are so real you would swear you were sitting in the back seat of the squad car.  The love story never feels sappy or tacked on, but is instead, shockingly human and richly realized.  As the seemingly unrelated stories knit together, the pages will fly by until the dramatic and heart-wrenching conclusion.  While it is still early, I have no reservation in saying that this will rank in my top novels of 2012.  If you are looking to start your summer reading off with a bang, be the first in line to grab this book.

Bryan VanMeter