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Four To Midnight    by Scott Flander order for
Four To Midnight
by Scott Flander
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

'Philadelphia has only about three stars in the sky at night, four at the most. And that fourth one usually turns out to be a plane ... It's different with the moon ... That night there was a brilliant moon, not quite full, but still bright enough to wipe out all three of our stars.'

Sergeant North is the narrator of Scott Flander's compelling second novel, Four To Midnight. The author, who spent time with Philly's officers on and off the job, depicts a city afire with thought-provoking issues of police ethics and race. It is in the late hours of the four to midnight shift at the 20th District facility, when an officer-assist call summons supervisor Sergeant Eddie North to a dark, desecrated area of West Philadelphia. The call conjures an angry, powerful councilman, a media circus, with nerve-wracking tension in the Philadelphia Police Department and the white-black community, compelling North to cross the line to do what he feels is right.

Amidst the mounting pressure of events, two officers are accused of severely beating black Philly councilman Sonny Knight. Sergeant North backs the innocence of his officers - Mutt Hope and Roy Knopfler - at risk of facing a cover-up charge. Black college professor Danforth is arrested for shooting a white cop, supposedly in self-defense. Contributing to the turmoil is the councilman's son, Carl Knight. He leads the accused's support group, 'Justice for Danforth', which campaigns for the professor's release. The bombing of a Philly patrol car and officer, the shooting of another white officer by a masked assailant, and further surprises, fan the inferno.

Sergeant Eddie North is the novel's star performer. He's a strong leading-character - lovable, dedicated, humorous, and gutsy. The author's humor is revealed in North's musings, as in 'A good elevator at a public housing project in Philly, was one that when the doors opened, you didn't step into empty space.' I recommend Four To Midnight as an above-average mystery, in which Flander hits a Philly home run! Though the story's momentum slopes downward a mite at times, the plot eventually ascends to a super-climactic finale.

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