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Michael O'Keefe
Burnt to a Crisp
Detective Paddy Durr is BURNT TO A CRISP. He just can’t catch a break. His beloved wife, Mairead, is dying from 9/11 related cancer. A vindictive police department psychiatrist is out to take his guns away for spurning her advances. With the corrupt mayor and his scheming wife as her allies, even the big Chiefs in the NYPD can’t protect him anymore. On top of all this, he just caught a disturbing triple homicide. But, he’s prevented from getting to the truth by a local drug lord who put a gag order on the neighborhood. Durr’s options are few and the clock is ticking. He can feel his life crumbling with each passing second. Even with little hope of success, he fights on. It’s going to take a miracle to save his wife and his job. It’s going to take luck and some old-school detective work to solve his murder case, and to deliver some justice for his innocent victims. Durr is left to pray to a God he is sure has forsaken him.

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10


Plot: This is a mystery readers can sink their teeth into, full of intriguing layers and the perfect amount of complexity. The storyline is fast-paced and effectively holds the reader's interest throughout.

Prose/Style: The author is a skilled writer who is able to craft not only a great narrative but also organic and believable dialogue, strong action scenes, and overall an enjoyable reading experience.

Originality: This is an original work with distinctive characters and situations.

Character Development/Execution: The author has done an impressive job with character development not only with Paddy, the main character, but also with second-tier players including Paddy's wife and fellow police officers.

Date Submitted: May 25, 2021

Hard-nosed NYPD detectives battle gangsters, each other, and their inner demons in this gritty police procedural, the third outing for Paddy Durr of the 83rd precinct. Durr has his hands full: he realizes an accidental fire is really arson; his wife, Mairead, has cancer; and politically connected police psychiatrist Dr. Levine has it in for him. To solve the case, Durr has to work with local mobster Bless, who may just go ahead and deal with the problem his way. Durr must also cope with memories of a love affair gone wrong as he struggles to tie all the threads together and capture a ruthless killer.

O’Keefe is himself a retired NYPD detective, and he imbues the thriller’s investigations with a persuasive sense of authenticity, peppering each account of a crime scene with fascinating technical details. Best of all is how O'Keefe brings to life the law enforcement milieu, with enough banter, friendships, and feuds to keep procedural fans happy, though the glimpses into the backstories of the characters sometimes go on so long that they drain the tension from the main plot. Readers should be aware that the realistic scenes of sex and violence edge toward the graphic. Still, the key investigations are strong enough to keep the narrative flowing.

The strongest element is the characterization of Durr himself. In addition to his tough-guy cop persona, we see his passionate tenderness with his ailing wife. O’Keefe paints their discussions about what they believe are her last days with a pained fierceness. He also elevates Durr above the usual "tough Irish cop" stereotype in a warm and amusing subplot focusing on Durr's close friendship with a lesbian couple and their wish to have Paddy serve as their sperm donor. Durr's growth as a family man and his exploits as a shrewd detective will keep readers invested until the last page.

Takeaway: Police procedural fans will revel in the exploits of Durr and the other tough but all-too-human Brooklyn detectives.

Great for fans of: Joseph Wambaugh, Ed McBain

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: B+
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A-