It’s Christmas Eve in New York and some men in hooded monks’ robes and plastic masks of the face of Jesus Christ have just pulled off a spectacular robbery of the historic church downtown where George Washington worshipped, getting away with tens of millions of dollars in jewelry and cash and also killing fifteen of the congregation.
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The first detective on the scene, quite by accident, is Lieutenant Mary Freeman, on her way home to Brooklyn after buying presents for the husband she no longer loves, and after stopping by her favorite haunt, Big Dot’s Jungle Bar, for a few drinks (or as Big Dot often says, “a few too many”).
With a half bottle of George Dickel under her belt, Freeman stumbles onto the scene at Broadway and Wall, but always a pro, she snaps into high gear, quickly assuming command of a chaotic situation, and in the process, making a big impression on a furious Mayor Frederick Lindstadt, who had been mocked and humiliated by the robbers for being not only short and bald, but helpless while among the well-heeled social elite in the Trinity congregation.
When the TV crews bear down and police brass arrive to take charge, Mary Freeman, not a big fan of police department politics, melts into the background.
But the next morning, on Christmas Day, Freeman is surprised to get a call from a mayor’s aide telling her to be at Gracie Mansion at 2 p.m.
Lindstadt has the top political and police honchos at Gracie Mansion to organize the investigation. But he surprises them (as well as Freeman) when he plucks Freeman out of NYPD obscurity, appointing her as his personal liaison officer to Operation Trinity.
As she delves into the investigation, deeper and deeper, Mary’s life is pulled apart by different forces: her dead-end marriage, the tension on the job, and now by an assignment the mayor will not let her turn down – a job that tosses her into the unsavory stew of conflicting (and hidden) agendas among the power elite of New York City’s political leaders, police department bosses, Episcopal Church hierarchy and Wall Street financiers.
Then, of course, there’s her personal life, and it’s about as pretty as the mangled corpses she encounters in the narthex of Trinity Church after the robbery.
When the media expose Mary Freeman as the unlikely hero uncovering clues revealing who the robbers are, Mary suddenly finds that, as in a bad nightmare, instead of running from her, the killers are instead coming after her, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.
It’s only near the end of her long, anguished journey to catch up with the robbers that she realizes just how much her personal life has had to do with the trail of blood that brings this riveting story to its sudden, shattering climax.