If you are a fan of NBC’s “Law & Order” programs, you’ll probably be a fan of Peter Blauner’s new novel, Proving Ground. A staffer in the writer’s room, as well as a past Edgar Award-winning author, Blauner knows how to write compelling crime fiction. But, what’s more important, he knows how to portray the characters caught up in the midst of criminal misdeeds, bringing out their emotional and inner turmoil in gripping fashion.
Former Army lieutenant Nathaniel “Natty Dread” Dresden, already haunted by the death of a young Iraqi boy at his hands, is further traumatized when his father, civil rights lawyer David Dresden, is killed in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. While processing this latest disruption in his life, longtime family friend and David’s business partner, Benjamin Grimaldi, aka Ben Grimm, enlists Natty’s help in closing David’s latest high-profile case involving an Iraqi man suing the United States government for its role in torturing him about alleged terrorist activity.
The deeper Natty digs into the case—even while butting heads with the FBI and NYPD Detective Lourdes Robles, who each have their own investigations—the more secrets he uncovers about his father and Ben Grimm, putting family and friendship to the ultimate test.
Blauner easily gets into the head of each of his characters, creating a sense of sympathy and compassion for their individual traumas. But this is easily Natty’s tale, overall, and the majority of the book rightly follows his investigation and personal quest for redemption. Blauner writes crisp, detailed passages and sharp dialogue, giving the story an edgy, almost noirish quality. There’s even a fiery court scene between attorneys that would fit into almost any “Law & Order” episode.