Review: S.C.P.D. #1 – The Case of the Claw

By Keith R.A. DeCandido

Crossroad Press e-book, 2011

When the serial-killing supervillain known as The Claw makes his lethal return to Super City (think New York, only with a significant population of costumed superheroes and supervillains), the hardworking S.C.P.D. must crack the case before he kills again. Unfortunately, a combination of budget cuts, politics, and constant interference from the costumed community makes that easier said than done …

In S.C.P.D. #1 – The Case of the Claw, veteran author Keith R.A. DeCandido gives readers a police procedural with a twist – in addition to the typical overworked, underpaid everyday heroes you’d expect from a cop story, we meet the “costumes” – the freaks of nature in ridiculous outfits whose dastardly deeds (the supervillains) and vigilante justice (the superheroes) routinely leave the city in near-ruin and interfere with anything resembling actual police work. 

The world DeCandido has created is gritty and realistic, with dashes of the utterly absurd. The mix works. The members of the S.C.P.D. feel familiar and real, without straying too far into clichéd territory. The police commissioner is a self-serving politician out to get the mayor’s job. The police chief is a world-weary, recently-divorced mama’s boy. The detectives and beat cops run the spectrum from jaded veterans to hard-charging newbies – all foul-mouthed, all with their own unique stories, and all obviously in need of vacation time. As for the costumes – even the good guys are arrogant, evasive and full of their own self-importance.

The plotline is a fairly basic police procedural, but with more than enough interesting twists to keep the reader guessing. The banter between the characters is witty, engaging, and believable. Some readers may be dismayed by the out-of-nowhere whiz-bang finale, which is only tangentially related to the main story … but keep reading.  Initially, it might feel like a handwaving distraction from the more straightforward (albeit tragic) resolution of the actual case, but it soon becomes clear that that’s exactly the point: the crazy, over-the-top, unpredictable ways of the costumed crowd have a way of overshadowing all of the hard work and sacrifices of the S.C.P.D. 

Verdict: In this first book of a planned series about the S.C.P.D., the real reward is the immersive, behind-the-scenes look at all the ways a world where supermen exist and do battle might affect the lives of everyday people … from those caught in the crossfire to those who must clean up the mess. Thanks to DeCandido’s solid character work, it’s easy to care about what happens to the citizens of Super City.  Definitely recommended.  8/10.

Kirsten Heffron


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