Ralph's Reviews > Professional Standards

Professional Standards by John Rigbey
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Mar 22, 2014

it was amazing
bookshelves: crime, foreign-detective, mystery

This is an extraordinary book, a police procedural that grabs the reader by the throat and doesn't let go. I don't know the last time I was engaged so thoroughly by a plot.

The story starts with a "bent" copper being nabbed by Scotland Yard's Directorate of Professional Standards, the equivalent of an American police department's Internal Affairs Division. By whatever name, they are still tin hunters, looking to take away badges because of vague or anonymous complaints from citizens of dubious standing. The head of DPS in the book is a bloke by the name of Marsh, a man who blames his job for the resentment and revilement he feels from others, when, in fact, his low estimation is engendered by nothing more than his own actions and his own imperious and weaselly personality. Willing to let the most heinous of criminals off with a warning, he is always more than ready to suspend, sack or otherwise ruin any copper for minor infractions, or merely the rumor of them. However, he thinks he has the real thing with Detective Sergeant Liam Pollard, who, according to an "anonymous" tip to Marsh will be carrying 2,000 pounds in bribe money. Nicked by by DPS after leaving a Masonic Lodge meeting (the Masonic angle will become an important element as the plot develops), Pollard agrees to squeal on corruption in the Yard to save his own miserable skin.

And then things start to go wrong. Leaks in PS become apparent as the wrong people are tipped off about Pollard's arrest and intent. He starts to string the tin hunters along. People who should have been caught in the net slip through, loose ends are tied up. And then Pollard gets himself killed, coshed in the loaf with an axe-handle while being minded by two PS constables. Within an hour, another witness gets a bullet through her ear-hole.

The whole mess is dropped into the lap of Detective Chief Inspector Michael Gregory, the book's chief protagonist and most admirable character. He finds himself pitted not only against a ruthless and amoral gang of drug smugglers, ready to kill with little or no provocation, but against the corruption and incompetence within the DPS, and his own ghosts, personal and professional. Since this book is at heart a police procedural, we get a blow-by-blow account of the investigation, as well as the activities of the bad hats. As the bodies pile up, and slick criminals lawyer up, and the officialdom starts to get in the way, CDI Gregory fights against odds and obstacles that at times seem insurmountable.

Rigbey is a retired Scotland Yard detective, as well as a crack private investigator, and that background allows him to bring a rare verisimilitude to both the characters and the investigation; his expertise on crime and criminals is also on point as he paints a vivid picture of London's wretches and career criminals. For those not well versed in criminal slang and cockney, the books starts with a glossary. I bet a monkey you'll need it.

It was not until I was more than half-way through the book that I discovered this was not the first of the Michael Gregory mysteries. At that point I knew I would have to go back and read the other mysteries in this series. The last time I felt so moved by a Scotland Yard police procedural I had just discovered the chronicles of Commander Gideon, and, with all regards to John Creasy, this is better. By any standards, "Professional Standards" is brilliant, expertly written by a man who not only knows his crime and criminals, but who has the writing skills to bring it all to life.
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Reading Progress

March 22, 2014 – Started Reading
March 22, 2014 – Shelved
March 28, 2014 – Shelved as: crime
March 28, 2014 – Shelved as: foreign-detective
March 28, 2014 – Shelved as: mystery
March 28, 2014 – Finished Reading

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