Originally published in hardcover (left) by Crime Club, 1991. Ebook edition (right) published by Maron & Company, 2012.
Sixty-one days before Detective Mick Cluett is due to retire, someone shoots him out in Sheepshead Bay and his murder quickly triggers the death of a young computer clerk who ran the murder gun's serial number through the data banks four years earlier.
As the investigation unfolds. Lt. Sigrid Harald is forced to confront the secrets hidden in her own past. What did Cluett know about her father's line-of-duty death thirty years ago and how involved is her own boss?
One of the answers lies with a colorful homeless street beggar. Jerry the Canary had been "nesting" in the girders above the tracks when the young clerk was pushed in front of a subway train, but he's an elusive bird and as hard to catch as a New York City pigeon.
Racing through the city's icy streets, Sigrid teams with a black detective from Brooklyn to find him before the killer cooks his goose.
Past Imperfect, the 7th in this series, was written in 1990 and I continue to be amazed by all the societal changes in twenty short years. Times Square had not yet become Disneyfied. Sex shops and porn movies abounded there, and tourists were pestered with handbills promising illicit good times in nearby hotel rooms that could be rented by the hour. Every third person was a smoker and smoking was allowed in restaurants, offices, and some movie theaters. The Twin Towers still stood. Subway cars and stations were grungy, and black graffiti covered both the walls and the trains. And the homeless were everywhere (something sadly happening once again, if for different reasons.)
On a lighter note, it was trendy for women to "get their colors done," i.e., to learn if they were a Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn and to choose a wardrobe based on those designations. Those familiar with Sigrid Harald's indifference to clothes and mirrors can imagine her reaction when her Grandmother Lattimore gifts her with such a makeover.
Critical Praise for Past Imperfect
“Maron writes a terse, technically expert police procedural, its hard-boiled plot undiluted by sentimentality.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Probably the most important ingredient in Maron’s work is the quality of her writing. She knows pacing, the rhythm of words, and the subtleties that so many writers miss . . . This tale of chase and terror won’t let you go until the final scene, which would make one beautiful TV or movie shootout.” (The Literary Lantern)
“Lean on clues and stronger on color, Maron uses the weight of the past to good effect.” (Boston Sunday Herald)