Breaking Blue by Timothy Egan

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Synopsis

“No one who enjoys mystery can fail to savor this study of a classic case of detection.” 
—TONY HILLERMAN
 
On the night of September 14, 1935, George Conniff, a town marshal in Pend Oreille County in the state of Washington, was shot to death.  A lawman had been killed, yet there seemed to be no uproar, no major investigation.  No suspect was brought to trial.  More than fifty years later, the sheriff of Pend Oreille County, Tony Bamonte, in pursuit of both justice and a master’s degree in history, dug into the files of the Conniff case—by then the oldest open murder case in the United States.  Gradually, what started out as an intellectual exercise became an obsession, as Bamonte asked questions that unfolded layer upon layer of unsavory detail.
                In Timothy Egan’s vivid account, which reads like a thriller, we follow Bamonte as his investigation plunges him back in time to the Depression era of rampant black-market crime and police corruption.  We see how the suppressed reports he uncovers and the ambiguous answers his questions evoke lead him to the murder weapon—missing for half a century—and then to the man, an ex-cop, he is convinced was the murderer.
                Bamonte himself—a logger’s son and a Vietnam veteran—had joined the Spokane police force in the late 1960s, a time when increasingly enlightened and educated police departments across the country were shaking off the “dirty cop” stigma.  But as he got closer to actually solving the crime, questioning elderly retired members of the force, he found himself more and more isolated, shut out by tight-lipped hostility, and made dramatically aware of the fraternal sin he had committed—breaking the blue code.
                Breaking Blue is a gripping story of cop against cop.  But it also describes a collision between two generations of lawmen and two very different moments in our nation’s history.
 

About Timothy Egan

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TIMOTHY EGAN is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and the author of six books, most recently The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the Washington State Book Award. His previous books include The Worst Hard Time, which won a National Book Award and was named a New York Times Editors' Choice. He is an online op-ed columnist for the New York Times, writing his "Opinionator" feature once a week.He is a third-generation Westerner and lives in Seattle.  
 
Published November 16, 2011 by Knopf. 267 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Biographies & Memoirs, Crime, History. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Ralstin was fingered for the killing by fellow detective Charles Sonnabend, but Sonnabend was ordered by the brass to stop investigating, and Ralstin disappeared.

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Publishers Weekly

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In a deathbed confession, a cop revealed that the Spokane police were involved in more than ``a conspiracy of small corruptions.'' Egan evocatively resurrects the scenes and raw insensitivities of '30s police life in the region, from Mother's Place, the diner where cops plotted their heists, to t...

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Entertainment Weekly

'Don't you have anything better to do?' one officer in Spokane asked Bamonte.'' Egan portrays a man who needed to distract himself from bitter memories of his own parents — an uncommunicative brute of a father and a promiscuous mother — as well as from his own failing marriage and troubled ...

Jun 19 1992 | Read Full Review of Breaking Blue

Los Angeles Times

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A tale of rogue cops and their acts of treachery and violence is told by newspaperman Timothy Egan in "Breaking Blue," a story that reaches back more than half a century to an era when times were so hard that a man might kill over "a few pounds of stolen butter."

May 08 1992 | Read Full Review of Breaking Blue

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