Snow Angel: A Novel
by Michael Graham
A good way to pass the holiday season is to take some time to read Michael Graham’s police procedural, The Snow Angel. Based on a true, heart-breaking story, Graham plows past the sensitivity of political correctness with a straightforward, no-nonsense look at race, politics and the media, but, at the same time, tells a story of redemption, love and Christmas miracles.
We begin with the kidnapping of seven-year-old Darryl Childress, well-known locally for his appearance in television ads. Darryl is the Snow Angel, the Little Drummer Boy, about whom we are told, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them…” a quote that will prove to be prophetic.
Thrown together on the task force to locate Darryl and his kidnappers are police veterans and longtime enemies, Ralph Kane and Isaiah Bell. Despising one another as they do, they would never admit to having anything in common; however, they are more brothers-in-arms than they could ever imagine. The allusion to Cain and Abel becomes more apparent as the book progresses when the answer to the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?’ becomes apparent.
As with all books of this type, there are the good guys and the bad, the heroes and the villains. The true heroes in The Snow Angel are the police – not all police, but the ‘real cops’. As Graham explains it, flawed and screwed-up as they might be (and Kane and Bell do have their issues), ‘real cops’ have a true sense of right and wrong, care deeply and empathetically for crime victims and will work ceaselessly to bring criminals to justice for the public good. If you needed the help of the police department, these would be the cops you would want on your side. On the other end of the spectrum are not just the criminals, as would be expected, but the politically-motivated members of the police department for whom image and personal career advancement outweigh any thought of public service, personal dignity or even common sense. Since image is so important to this sort of politically-motivated cop, the media joins the ranks of the villains, engaging in the exploitative media feeding frenzy that so often accompanies crimes of this sort.
The ugliness, the brutality that the police have to deal with on a day-to-day basis takes their toll. Graham takes us on a tour of the gangs, both white and black, prisons, mafia, drug addicts and the just-plain urban ugliness and hatred. Being immersed in this environment, as the police are, results in alcoholism, ruined family relationships, depression and suicide. Keeping the book from being a total downer, Graham also shows us surprising compassion, cooperation, the code of honor among criminals when it comes to crimes involving children and the healing power of love and forgiveness.
That Michael Graham has a background in investigative journalism and television crime drama comes as no surprise, his journalistic style of writing and knowledge of police procedure being evident throughout. All in all, he’s written a good story, well-told, and worth taking your time to read this holiday season.