Manhattan North Homicide – Thomas McKenna (1996)


True stories from the busiest days of the NYPD.

Manhattan North Homicide: The True Story of One of New York’s Best Homicide Cops – Thomas McKenna (1996)

1st Grade Detective Thomas McKenna was a legend in the Manhattan North Homicide Squad. His 30-year plus career was filled with headlines of some of the most significant cases in the history of New York City crime. 

McKenna, a Bronx native, was a cop in the 25 Precinct in the 1960s.  He was extremely active, making 300 collars in just three years.  He saw the city go downhill in a hurry.  By 1970 urban decay had taken a firm hold on the city and McKenna was becoming a seasoned detective.  McKenna was eventually put into Manhattan North Homicide, where he spent the majority of his career. 

McKenna saw some of the biggest cases in the city and the book goes into detail on the investigations.  He relates the Central Park Jogger case.  An interesting look at the facts known to the detectives before the more recent revelations of the DNA hit on Matias Reyes and the release of the so called “Central Park 5”.  He interviewed and elicited the confession of Yusef Salaam, who was later exonerated and is now running for New York City Council.  He also goes into detail on the infamous “Preppy Murder” case committed by Robert Chambers, who murdered Jennifer Levin in Central Park after a night of partying at Dorian’s Red Hand.

He was involved in some cases that are less known today but were big headlines in the 80’s and 90’s.  McKenna assisted in the “Baby Maldonado” case.  He was involved in the 1994 terror attack on the Brooklyn Bridge where Lebanese gunman shot a van full of Hassidic students, killing 16-year-old Ari Halberstam.

Manhattan North Homicide relates cases that affected the author personally or that he takes great pride in.  He includes a story about a burglar that was mistakenly convicted.  McKenna found evidence to prove his innocence and ensured his release.  McKenna also heart wrenchingly tells of the Lisa Potter homicide.  Lisa was a college student who was strangled to death before leaving for her post office job.  Despite hard work, McKenna and his fellow detectives were never able to solve the case, and it still gnaws at him.  He is someone who clearly cares deeply about his work and wants to tell these stories and wants the reader to learn from them. 

Detective McKenna and his co-author, William Harrington, write in a conversational manner.  Many of the case reviews are reminiscent of police reports and written in the same short, “just the facts” manner.   For anyone who is an investigator or is looking to become an investigator, this is a must read.  The book shows the teamwork that goes into a big case and how critical it is to work together.  There are tips and insights interspersed throughout the book that would be useful in any investigation.

McKenna is no wordsmith, but for a straight crime story and details of some earthshattering cases, this is a great read.  It’s not a long book and it’s an easy read that you can knock out in a weekend.   It is also remarkably cheap on Amazon.  Manhattan North Homicide is available for delivery in hardcover for only $6.  Pick up a copy and you will really learn a thing or two about policework.

Thanks for reading The Ops Desk!


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