Tragic is the 25th book in the Butch Karp/Marlene Ciampi series, but you don’t really need to read the earlier novels before you read this one. Butch Karp, the protagonist, is district attorney for New York. His wife, Marlene Ciampi, is an advocate for abused women. In Tragic, a union official has been killed, apparently in a robbery gone bad. But is it really a robbery or was the robbery a cover for what was really murder? And if it was murder, who ordered it? And can Karp prove it in a court of law?
Like all the books in this series, Tragic combines a police procedural (in which evidence is gathered about the crime, witnesses are found and so on) and a courtroom drama (or, in this case, two courtroom dramas) in which the accused are tried. In Tragic, Tanenbaum gets into the world of the longshoremen and the unions that represent dockworkers. Some members of the union are corrupt, others are not. Some are out for themselves and others are out for the workers. But on the docks, as elsewhere, money talks. Tragic also involves the Russian mafia. There are love stories and meditations on the nature of guilt.
As usual in this series, Tragic is well written. The plot starts a little slowly, but then picks up steam. Tanenbaum is no prose stylist, but he knows how to put together a sentence and a paragraph. The characters are interesting and not all one-dimensional.
But I liked Tragic less than some earlier books in the series. There is less interplay between Karp and Ciampi than usual, and almost no mention of their genius daughter Lucy, who is a fascinating character. There is also less interplay between Karp and his associates.
Overall, this is a good book of its type but not a great one.
Robert K. Tanenbaum is a trial attorney and Manhattan district attorney (like his protagonist) and a former basketball star (also like his hero). In addition to the 25 books in the Karp series, he has written three nonfiction books about true crimes. He is also the former mayor of Beverly Hills and a professor of law.