Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

Ex-KOP by Warren Hammond

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Warren Hammond’s first science fiction novel, KOP, was a great read. Set on a backwater tropical world menaced by flood seasons and cybernetically augmented off-worlders that love slumming in the cesspool of crime and corruption, the novel took me away to another – but still familiar – planet. I don’t know if Warren Hammond has read Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels, but I suspect he has.

Although Hammond’s series character lives in the same kind of violent and predatory world as Marlowe and plays by his own set of rules, Juno Mozombe is a terribly flawed hero. He’s also a hard and brutal man that’s not above committing crimes and physically threatening and even harming anyone that stands in his way. But that’s fair because everyone Juno tends to go up against deals with him just as harshly.

I love the world of Lagarto. I’ve read both books, and I settled into the alleys and rivers with no problem at all in Ex-KOP. Rivers course through the city, and hardscrabble people commit crimes and hawk goods constantly while just trying to get by. Once upon a time, Lagarto was wealthy, but that was generations ago. The wealth deserted them and left the planet overpopulated and easy prey for off-worlders living in the space stations that circle the planet.

After the events that played out in the first novel, Juno is no longer a cop. He’s working as a seedy quasi-private eye taking sex pictures of off-worlders, hoping to score blackmail money. As a hero, Juno is more desperate than honorable, but I like that about him. He feels real, so when he’s trapped into working with ex-partner Maggie Orzo, it’s because he has to, not out of some sense of nobility. I like nobility, but Hammond truly screws his character over in the worst possible make – making reading about him and his efforts to get out of the fire irresistible.

In this novel, everything about Juno comes back to haunt him. He’s trapped in a world of shifting rocks and hard places. One misstep will doom him or the people he cares about. The police department ignores him for the most part, until he starts sticking his nose into an investigation at Maggie’s request. Then he becomes a target for the enemies he thought he’d left behind.

Maggie, whom he feels almost like a father to, is in harm’s way too. Investigating a series of murders she believes was done by an off-worlder has marked her for death. Despite Juno’s warnings and pleadings, she continues with her investigation. Not only that, but she asks Juno to check into the murders of a husband and wife that she has her suspicions about. Maggie doesn’t believe the daughter really killed them. To complicate matters further, Maggie is also involved in a bid for police chief against one of KOP’s most dangerous officers.

Juno has no compunction about turning away from Maggie at first. Then she offers him money. He needs money. His wife Niki tried to commit suicide and requires extensive – and expensive – surgical repairs to save her life and get her back on her feet. Maybe Juno can turn away from a friend in need, but he definitely can’t turn away from money at the moment.

Hammond plays fairly with Juno’s motivations, and he delivers increasing suspense and danger in a logical and consistent way. As I turned the pages and saw Juno’s situation turn darker and grimmer, I rooted for him even harder. I forgave all the brutality and under-the-table methods he employed because I was convinced that was the only way he had of saving himself. And I didn’t know if that was going to be enough. As a dose of reality in this well-developed future world, Juno isn’t able to save everyone, which makes the read more disturbing, yet more satisfying.

If you love science fiction and hardboiled crime novels, you’ll love Hammond’s gala mix of the two genres. The plot never becomes too complicated, and the science fiction segments are frightening believable. The off-worlders are so strong, so invincible, that I want to see Juno square off against them, but I’m afraid that he’ll lose that fight. Hammond is at work on the third novel, so it’ll be interesting to see where he takes his story next.


One Response to “Ex-KOP by Warren Hammond”

  1. Third novel,sounds like I need to catch up.

    Logan Lamech

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