Cover image for Chains of command
Chains of command
Caunitz, William J.
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Publication Information:
New York : Dutton, 1999.
Physical Description:
323 pages ; 24 cm
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In this electrifying new thriller from the bestselling author of Cleopatra Gold, an ambitious female deputy police commissioner and a daring detective attempt to solve a murder and go up against the forces of greed, rivalry, and long-buried secrets.

Author Notes

Born in 1933, William J. Caunitz used his thirty years of New York City police department experience for background in writing numerous novels depicting police corruption. In 1985, Caunitz published his first literary work, One Police Plaza, which gave readers a behind-the-scenes look at the way real cops behave. The book quickly became a New York Times bestseller.

After the success of his first novel, Caunitz continued to write whodunit books focusing on the police force. From 1987 to 1993, Caunitz published Suspects, Black Sand, Exceptional Clearance, and Cleopatra Gold. His sixth and final novel, titled Pigtown, published in 1995, was considered by critics to be his best. The book chronicles the investigation of a mob hit that puts lead detective Matthew Stuart and his fellow cops in mortal danger.

Caunitz, who divided his time between New York City and a little town in Mexico, died in 1996 at the age of 63.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Just a few pages into this gripping novel, it's easy for even readers new to Caunitz to recognize that he was a 30-year New York City cop. His ironclad grasp of the vernacular could not possibly be faked, nor could his realistic descriptions of the station houses, cop cars, and other details of daily cop life. Detective Lieutenant Matthew Stuart finds himself in a delicate position when he is asked for help by Suzanne Albrecht, his former lover whose plan to become police commissioner may be derailed by a scandal. Stuart has no choice but to agree to lend a hand, but he soon finds himself in the middle of a drug war being waged by dirty cops. As Stuart goes undercover in the 37th Precinct to find out just how dirty, he discovers a lot more than he wanted to know. Caunitz died in 1996, after completing half this manuscript, but it reads with all the intensity of his earlier works. Fans of NYPD Blue may enjoy this more than the show. --Jenny McLarin

Publisher's Weekly Review

New York City cops fight corruption and murder while drug rings battle one another in this stellar, labyrinthine police procedural from the bestselling Caunitz (One Police Plaza). The shooting of Officer Johnny Rodriguez, a corrupt street cop in the mainly Hispanic neighborhood of Washington Heights who doubled as a spy for Internal Affairs, threatens the future career of Deputy Police Commissioner Suzanne Albrecht, to whom he reported. Albrecht wants to be New York's first female commissioner, and a scandal around her informants could quash her chances. So Suzanne transfers her old flame Lt. Matt Stuart (familiar from Caunitz's previous novels) out of his post in Intelligence, setting him up as the new head of Washington Heights' 37th Precinct, and charging him to investigate Johnny's death. The obvious suspect is local drug lord Tio Paco, but Stuart discovers a dirtier cop with a vengeful agenda, and a deadly female shooter on the Italian mob's payroll. Info from Matt's undercover sources, and some timely wiretaps, hint at a bigger story. Colombia's Cali cartel and the Russian mafiyah have jointly controlled the supply of drugs to Washington Heights' Dominican bosses and largely black street pushers. But now the Italians and the Chinese tong gangs are teaming up to try to displace the Russians and Colombians. Bodies pile up, secrets accumulate and power shifts and shifts again as Matt and his crew join forces with the Intelligence division to find major corruption in the police and intrigue among the drug dealers. The narrative lures the reader down one bloody path and onto another, dropping just enough clues to keep the big secrets till the end. Once again, Caunitz, himself an NYPD officer for 30 years, combines suspense with details about the milieu he knows: here, however, greater power is accorded to women, both within the NYPD and in the ranks of the drug dealers. All five city boroughs, along with Long Island, play roles in the novel; all the locations are crisply rendered, and the busy characters sharply drawn. The narrative pace never fails, and a perfect ending provides justice for all without a maudlin note. (Sept.) FYI: Caunitz died in 1996, leaving half of the manuscript for this novel. It was completed by his long-time friend Christopher Newman. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Caunitz, a 30-year veteran of the NYPD and author of six best-selling novels, wrote half of this novel before his death in 1996, leaving friend Christopher Newman (creator of the popular Joe Dante series) to complete it. The book begins with the murder of a cop (with $5000 in his pocket) and his mistress (who has ties to the Cali drug cartel) in Washington Heights. Their deaths signal serious trouble for First Deputy Police Commissioner Suzanne Albrecht, who is in line to become the next commissioner and is worried that a scandal in the Heights will ruin her chances. So she enlists the aid of Matt Stuart, a lieutenant in the NYPD's intelligence division. When two street dealers are murdered, threatening to set off a territorial battle over the area's drug market, Albrecht and Stuart must act fast to avert a blood bath and save a political career. Caunitz is known for his thoughtful writing and accurate portrayal of procedure and police personnel, and his talents are displayed here to great effect. Readers everywhere will miss him. For all libraries.ÄJo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-University Heights P.L., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.