Josh Stallings’ Tricky is one of my favorite books read for January. He puts an interesting twist on a police procedural, and forces Niels Madsen, his protagonist, to look at a criminal from a fresh viewpoint. Is a lifelong criminal able to change? The “bad guys” can’t always be judged by appearance.
Fifteen minutes. LAPD Homicide Detective Niels Madsen only has fifteen minutes left on his shift. He could have easily avoided the scene he witnesses, one that could destroy his career. The veteran cop sees a rookie holding a man at gunpoint at a bus stop, while the man’s more experienced partner is protected behind the squad car’s door. Madsen intervenes, only to discover the man at the bus stop has a gun. However, he’s protecting the body of another man.
Because of the body, Madsen and his new partner, Darius Kazim, take control of the crime scene. It appears that Francisco Gutierrez, known as Cisco, shot his friend David. But, appearances can be deceiving. Cisco insists he would never harm David. He’s his roommate at a shelter. David had Down syndrome. And, Cisco was once a notorious gang member. He now appears to be intellectually disabled. But, as I said, appearances can be deceiving, both on the streets and within law enforcement. In fact, Cisco recognizes that in Madsen and calls him “Tricky” because that first time they met at the bus stop, Madsen fooled Cisco in order to get the gun.
Madsen doesn’t really have a stake in this case. He wants the truth for the victim’s family. But, truth seems to be mixed up in some sort of territorial dispute with the Sheriff’s Department. They send over Cisco’s arrest files with sarcastic remarks scribbled on the papers. They want Cisco turned over to them.
Once Madsen meets others who know Cisco now, he doesn’t know if he has to prove the man did not kill David or that he did kill his friend. The man who appears in front of Madsen appears to be different from the man in the Sheriff’s Department files. At every turn, deputies from the Sheriff’s Dept. seem to be waiting for Madsen to make a mistake. When he’s desperate, Madsen only has two people he can turn to, two retired cops. One is his father, who suffers from memory issues at times. The other is his father’s caregiver.
Tricky is a reflection of today’s society. Forced to ask questions about bias, intellectual disability, police actions, and redemption, Madsen stands in contrast to cops who resort to violence and force. Stallings’ scenario and his characters, especially Madsen and Cisco, are well-developed. Tricky is a challenging must-read for fans of police procedurals. – Lesa Holstine