Book Review: Bomb Squad: A Year Inside the Nation's Most Exclusive Police Unit


by Richard Esposito and Ted Gerstein

New York: Hyperion, 2007. Pp. xiv, 338. Illus., append., index. 24.95. ISBN:1-401-30152-5

In Bomb Squad two journalists have teamed up to tell the story of the NYPD?s small (33-strong) but select team of explosives experts. In recent years the NYPD Bomb Squad has responded to an average of some 200 incidents a year. Some of these are false alarms, involving ?suspicious? packages or hoaxes. But others are deadly serious.

The focus of Bomb Squad is on recent events. This is certainly appropriate, given the increased threat in an era of heightened international terrorism. They cover a good many specific incidents, usually based on interviews with participating Bomb Squad personnel. In the process, they discuss the techniques and equipment that Bomb Squad members use to identify and disarm or otherwise dispose of explosive devices, while keeping themselves from harm. There are successes and failures. Accounts of the latter, are, of course, the most moving and tragic.

In the process of telling the story of the Bomb Squad today, the authors very effectively weave its history into the tale. Using vignettes, they reach back into the nineteenth century, to recount the bombing incidents that led New York to establish the first explosives disposal unit in the country in 1903. These historical vignettes, which are supplemented by several highly informative appendices, are usefull not only in providing background, but also allows the authors to deal with some notable incidents in the past that often have eerie parallels to contemporary threats, such as the 1920 ?wagon bombing? of Wall Street or the infamous ?Mad Bomber? of the 1940s and 1950s. This also helps them discuss the evolution of bomb disposal techniques, which in the earliest times were frighteningly primitive.

Bomb Squad is a valuable read for anyone interested in homeland protection.
Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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