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Authors: Charles Kenney

The Son of John Devlin

BOOK: The Son of John Devlin
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A story of corruption, betrayal, and redemption—intelligently, compassionately, and powerfully told.”

     Author of
The Rascal King

“[Kenney] asks all the tough questions about what makes good cops go bad, and he draws poignant studies of the weak ones, the cruel ones, and the ones who turn into bitter old men. Most of all, he lets us feel the desolation of his hero as a moral man adrift in an immoral world, a lost child in search of the father who abandoned him.”

The New York Times Book Review

“Poignancy is rare in a police procedural. Only a handful of writers know how to create characters who are both tough enough to stride believably down the mean streets and tender enough to capture readers’ hearts.”

Boston Herald

The Son of John Devlin
is strong, authentic, and beautifully rendered. Charlie Kenney is the real deal.”

B. P


Deception, greed, and betrayal drive this well-plotted, moving thriller.… Filled with tough, poignant portraits, disappearing evidence, suspenseful stakeouts, and unexpected plot twists, Kenney’s thriller is also distinguished by the author’s compassion for his characters.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“The papers and the TV tell the story of police corruption, and then some other bad thing happens and the story is forgotten. Charlie Kenney’s novel has you move in with the people who lived it—and makes you see what

V. H

“Charles Kenney delivers a tight-woven plot, with the love of a son for his father at its heart. With dialogue that rings true and a cast of very human characters,
The Son of John Devlin
is a page-turner that challenges the mind and touches the heart.”


“Kenney writes of fear and greed and love and redemption as if he’s lived with Victor Hugo all of his life.
The Son of John Devlin
is a major thriller.”

D. S
           Author of
Confessions of a Stockbroker


A son’s love for a disgraced father drives the novel’s story line in such a way that fans of the sub-genre will beg for more works from awesome Charles Kenney. The plot is fantastic, raising the bar for police procedurals to an uncanny level. However, it is the characters that set this story apart from the norm and make for a fine reading regardless of genre attachment.”

Book Browser

The Son of John Devlin
leaves no room for doubt: Charles Kenney knows Boston politics and law enforcement to the bone. Here he shows us convincingly how hard it is to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.”

F. W
Former Governor of Massachusetts

“An absorbing novel … A very affecting and touching novel of a son’s love for his father and of the powerful brotherhood and culture of law-enforcement.”

—Sullivan County Democrat

“This fully realized, character-driven novel is influenced equally by Peter Maas’
, Robert Daley’s
Prince of the City
, and such literary classics as
All the King’s Men
.… A beautifully written, classic example of the good-cop, bad-system crime novel.”


Also by the Author


A Ballantine Book
Published by The Ballantine Publishing Group
Copyright © 1999 by Charles Kenney

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by The Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

Ballantine is a registered trademark and the Ballantine colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data: 2001116591

eISBN: 978-0-307-77551-1


For Charles Frederick Kenney and
Elizabeth Smith Kenney—
who help me make sense of it all

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald

“How do you leave the past behind when it keeps finding ways to get to your heart?”
Jonathan Larson


he dirty cop will inevitably reveal himself,” Del Rio said. “He’ll always give off a sign, an indication.”

Del Rio buffed a crisp, red apple on the chest of his jacket, regarded the apple, then bit into it.

“Why do I say this?” Del Rio asked. He sat back in the passenger seat of a black Jeep Cherokee and stared at Detective Jack Devlin, positioned behind the wheel. “Why do I say that the dirty cop will inevitably reveal himself? With Moloney here,” he went on, motioning vaguely toward the street as cars rode by, headlights shining, “with Moloney, there’s just always been something about him. He’s shrewd, it’s true. Clever guy, by no means stupid. But he’s a pig. He could have been a player within the department. But he’s one of those who gave in to the anger and bitterness. It’s a fucking way of life in Boston, isn’t it, Jack?”

Devlin nodded slowly as he stretched his head back, his arms to the sides. “It was ever thus,” he said, preferring not to delve into a topic where the shoals and eddies held more danger than one might imagine.

“Anyway, he’s a fat asshole,” Del Rio said, a look of disgust crossing his face. He waved dismissively, as though banishing thoughts of Moloney from his mind.

Devlin looked at Del Rio with a half smile. “You hide it well,” Devlin said.

Del Rio appeared puzzled. “What?”

“Your dislike for Moloney,” Devlin said. “You camouflage it nicely.”

Del Rio laughed. “Fuck him,” he said. “My point is simple: The dirty cop will always show himself. Eventually. There’ll be a sign. Know why?”

“Tell me,” Devlin said.

“Because the dirty cop is arrogant, by definition. Otherwise he is not capable of doing what he’s doing. He’s incapable. To go bad, a cop has to believe he’s higher than the law, or not so much higher as exempt from it. He has to believe it doesn’t so much apply to him.”

Del Rio, the deputy superintendent of the Boston Police Department, chief of all detectives, munched on the apple as he thought about this topic. He glanced out the window, then looked at Devlin.

“You know what the character flaw is with these guys?” Del Rio asked.

Devlin shook his head.

“Hubris,” Del Rio said. “They’re all guilty of it. Hubris.” He paused. “You familiar with this concept?” Del Rio asked.

Devlin nodded. “Arrogant pride,” he said. “It’s—”

“Exactly,” Del Rio interrupted. “Arrogant pride. Overreaching. Most of those who go bad have something in their record, some achievement, sometimes amazing things. They think, you know, they’re above it all. Not accountable. Derived from the Greeks. Aristides the Just was the classic case. He ruled, what was it, Athens? A city-state. Ruled with such a level of purity, self-conscious
purity always on display, that they drove him from office. But it wasn’t long before corruption had taken root in the city and they were clamoring for his return.”

Suddenly, Del Rio caught himself. “You know this,” he said. “You’re familiar with this. Not new territory to you.” He paused. “Somebody said you’re the only Harvard man on the force. That true?”

“Evans went to the Kennedy School,” Devlin said.

Del Rio squinted and shook his head. “Some mid-career bullshit,” he said derisively. “Doesn’t count. You’re the only one was an undergrad. Plus law school.”

Del Rio took a breath and was about to speak again but then caught himself, as though he wanted to avoid saying something impolitic. But he appeared to change his mind just as quickly and he cocked his head and regarded Devlin.

“Sometimes, the well-schooled aren’t particularly well-educated,” Del Rio said. “I’m an autodidact. I take a certain pride in that.”

Del Rio had rough edges, but though he lacked a certain polish, Devlin could see he was very smart.

“I was diagnosed as dyslexic when I was fifteen,” Del Rio said. He shrugged. “Attention deficit, too.” He grimaced. “Charles Schwab, the investment guy. He’s dyslexic.” Del Rio nodded. “It was a struggle. They always said in school I was stupid. They told my parents. I never believed it. I was the only one. I would hang back, quiet—”

Devlin reacted with surprise, and Del Rio saw the look.

“Well, quiet for me,” Del Rio said. “I’d hang back, sullen. I was a sullen kid. I’m thinking the whole time,
‘Fuck them, they don’t know shit about me, about what’s inside my head. I’m smarter than all of them.’ And I was. Shrewder. I’m not bragging, I’m just telling you what it was like.

“So I stumble along, dogshit grades all the way, and then I learn about the dyslexia and attention deficit and I get a tutor and three years later I’m in community college. Straight A’s. Then Northeastern. It’s not Harvard, but—”

“Great criminal justice,” Devlin said.

“And I went straight through nights. By this time I’m in the academy days and school nights and I’m acing every fucking course and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. I loved it. I fuckin’ loved school. You?”

Devlin nodded. “I did,” he said. He unscrewed the thermos of decaf and offered some to Del Rio, who declined.

Devlin poured more into his plastic travel cup and screwed the top back onto the thermos. He nodded, still thinking about Del Rio’s question. He had loved the solitary nature of study, loved the exploration as an undergraduate, the feeling that there was this massive amount of knowledge sitting there waiting to be absorbed. Perhaps most of all he had loved law school and the remarkable clarity and order of the law. In a world where there were too many shadows and shades of gray, the law laid it out clearly and definitively for anyone who cared to read and understand. The weighty codes of criminal and civil laws defined what the society was; defined what man’s responsibilities were; defined the boundaries.

“I thought about going to law school,” Del Rio said.

“I actually applied to Northeastern and got in. But by then I was on the force and moving up. I think I’d just
made lieutenant, and the two kids and OT and … Jesus, it just seemed like too much. Four years, nights. A back-breaking workload. And for what? I knew I’d never practice. And I was already moving up the ranks as quickly as could be expected. It wasn’t as though it was going to give me any real edge. So I said fuck it, and I didn’t go. Every now and then I regret not having done it. You know?”

BOOK: The Son of John Devlin
6.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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