Danielle Hanna

Hearth & Homicide Fiction

Category: Cops & Crime

Book Review: Repeat Offender

2015-04-06 Bradley Nickell, Repeat OffenderTrue Crime

I opened Repeat Offender, read the first scene, and questioned why I thought I could ever read this.

Bradley Nickell, a Las Vegas police detective in the Repeat Offender Program, stumbled into the biggest case of his life when he began investigating career criminal Daimon Monroe. An investigation which began with Brad stuck in a small room listening to endless hours of inmate phone calls escalated to a search warrant, millions of dollars of stolen art and collectables – and a scheme to murder the detective, the prosecutor, and the judge who threatened to keep Daimon behind bars for life. It sounds like a great police procedural, with one catch: It isn’t fiction.

I knew most of these facts up-front before picking up the book. And having gotten to know Brad over social media, I was excited to read his new release. But when the opening scene involved Brad fingering a shotgun as a car followed him home from work, I powered off my Kindle and stared straight ahead blankly. My own dad is a sheriff’s detective. Or my surrogate dad, rather. My father was already dead. And Brad wasn’t just some author; I’d gotten to know him personally.

This was not going to be an easy read.

2015-04-13 Police (2)I got a grip on myself and powered forward. I’d promised Brad I’d read the book.

Fortunately, not every moment was as intense as that opening scene. As a crime writer, I was fascinated to look over the shoulder of a detective and watch every step that lead to the arrest of the suspect and his trials and convictions. I was also fascinated to get to know Daimon Monroe in-depth, and the mind of someone who would so casually flaunt society’s rules.

I rooted for heroes like Tammy, Daimon’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of his children, who dug in her heels and turned her life completely around, whatever the danger might be.

I felt for his daughter, torn between the unbreakable bond between a father and daughter, and the reality of what Daimon did to her.

2015-04-13 Crime Scene Tape (2)If a cop is going to last long in his job, he has to perfect the art of shutting down his emotions. If a writer is going to last long in his job, he has to perfect the art of being deeply in tune with his own emotions and those of everyone around him. Brad did an amazing job of bringing feeling into the story. I think he could have gone even deeper, but I applaud his accomplishment in an arena that most cops learn to avoid.

I know Brad had some wonderful, experienced writers help him on his debut book, but I confess, I didn’t agree with the overall structure of the story. I felt like the first scene was, in fact, the climax, and ought to have been deeper into the book. Things also took a one-eighty when the story switched from investigation to trial. At this point, the tension of Daimon’s attempted murders-for-hire was gone, and we entered a detailed recounting of his trials for numerous offenses. Dividing the book into “Part I” and “Part II” would have made the transition easier.

2015-04-06 Police CarDespite that, I read every last word, cover-to-cover. No detail was overlooked in the retelling of this true crime, and I walked away with deep respect for the law enforcement officers who doggedly stick to the trail. Despite the repercussions – which became alarmingly personal to Brad – he stuck to his duty to ensure that no more lives and livelihoods would be upended by one man’s mania.

About the Author

2015-04-06 Bradley NickellIn 1992, Bradley joined the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and was promoted to detective in 1999. For the past sixteen years, Bradley has been assigned to the Repeat Offender Program, specializing in identifying, catching, and helping convict career criminals who prey on the citizens of Southern Nevada. Repeat Offender is his debut true-crime thriller.

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More Research than I Bargained For

Cop LightsI started writing stories about law enforcement officers when I was in my early teens. When I did, I realized I’d discovered my niche. Ever since then, every story I’ve ever worked on has featured law enforcement officers as main characters and some crime-de-jour at the crux of the story.

Okay, except for the pirate adventure, the Regency romance, and the Christmas fantasy.

(Long pause …)

Don’t ask. I have no idea. The Christmas fantasy is the only one I’m actually thinking about publishing.

From the get-go, one thing really fascinated me about writing police fiction. No, it wasn’t the super brainy-ness of forensic science and crime scene investigation. Nor was it the high drama of lights and sirens and exchanges of gunfire.

Okay, yes it was.

But more than that, it was a fascination with the officers themselves. The men and women who wear uniforms and badges and carry a ton of equipment on a belt. The people who work the most ungodly shifts (which never end) under the most unforgiving circumstances (at least one car will always be on the road in blizzard conditions, and it has a light bar) doing the most insane things (you’d never get me to disarm somebody bent on murder). It’s like they’re not even human.

And yet they are. They also have their favorite foods and TV shows. They have kids to raise and a game of tee-ball to play in the backyard. They have bills to pay when they get home. They’ve burned dinner once or twice. They have family to visit this summer in Wyoming. A few of the guys from work are coming over for Super Bowl. Oh, and somebody’s gotta feed the dog and let her out to pee.

It was this juxtaposition of the extraordinary and the mundane that fascinated me early on as a writer and continues to fascinate me. Law enforcement officers are both humans and superhumans. The story of their everyday lives becomes a drama in itself when you consider that, after they kiss their family good-bye, their work day might be nothing but traffic tickets … or they might not make it home.

It’s just not a 9 to 5 job.

While I’ve always been eager to learn about the professional side of a cop’s experience, an odd plot twist in my life made me intimately familiar with the personal side. More familiar than I’ll ever be with criminal investigation or police protocol.

More familiar than I ever wanted to be.

I was a young woman in my mid-twenties who had finally shaken free of an emotionally abusive family. I was bitter and isolated and flirting with the idea of suicide. Everything changed the day I found a stray dog and called my local sheriff’s department. We got the young pup home again – but was the one who was really lost, and it was the responding officer who saved me. He kept in touch with me, realized something was not right, offered to listen anytime I wanted to talk … and in the end, “adopted” me as if I were his own daughter.

I count him and his wife – a corrections officer – as my family. And I now know for myself what it’s like to “love a LEO,” as the saying goes in the families of law enforcement officers.

Spaghetti for dinner happens a lot, cuz that’s his favorite dish. But he’s never burned dinner, that I know of. Perish the thought. The kitchen is his domain. Her home office is bright pink, because that’s her favorite color – and wouldn’t you know, the coat I got for Christmas has pink trim. The dogs go out to pee way more often then necessary, cuz they’re bored and he can’t say no. And of course, some guys from work are going to be over for Super Bowl.

And every hug good-bye lasts a really long time. Cuz you just never know …

I always wondered what it would be like to have a mom who slept all day and worked all night. Or to never know exactly when dad was going to be home from work. Or to have plans upturned because someone got called out. Or to celebrate a holiday with someone important missing from the table.

I don’t wonder anymore. I know. I’m no longer a curious writer, standing on the outside looking in. I’m a part of that world. Honestly, this is more “research” than I bargained for. But now I can definitely write about law enforcement officers in an authentic, multi-dimensional way.

As both humans and superhumans.

When it comes to the debate over the integrity and character of law enforcement officers, I think Master Corporal Jeff Davis said it best in his “Dash Cam Confessional.”

If I may paraphrase: “Man, we’re all human.”

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