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The Chicago Way    by Michael Harvey Amazon.com order for
Chicago Way
by Michael Harvey
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Former police detective, Chicago PI Michael Kelly, is approached by his ex-partner John Gibbons to take on a cold case one that is eight years old. A woman had been raped and stabbed numerous times and the police department - as well as everyone else involved - seemed to sweep the crime under the rug. Now the woman wants justice.

When Gibbons is shot to death, Kelly is sure there is more here than meets the eye. He's proved right as he follows a trail that leads him further and further into a murky morass where he begins to doubt almost everyone to whom he talks. Especially when he visits a rapist and serial killer in prison.

Vaguely reminiscent of Mickey Spillane and Robert B. Parker, but definitely with his own style, author Michael Harvey has produced a first mystery novel that keeps the reader turning pages as quickly as they can be absorbed. Tension mounts with each new occurrence. Suspense keeps one from turning out the light when reading in bed. Maybe not wanting to be in the dark could also account for that.

Some very disturbing figures are quoted in The Chicago Way. 'Of the one hundred million women in the United States, almost twenty percent of them, roughly eighteen million of them, have been raped. The majority of those more than once.' Our rate of sexual assault is 'thirteen times higher than Great Britain. Twenty times higher than Japan.' Chilling. A new force in a field of mystery authors, Michael Harvey joins the ranks of the good ones.

2nd Review by Tim Davis (Rating:2):

John Gibbons is a retired Chicago cop who is tormented by an old, unsolved case involving the brutal rape of a young girl. Now Gibbons turns to his former partner from on-the-job (and current PI), Michael Kelly. Perhaps - if they join forces - they can finally solve the nine-year-old case.

Almost immediately, though, Gibbons is murdered. The Chicago police (and especially Kelly's old nemesis in the DA's office) think Kelly may have been involved in the murder of his former partner. And - making life more complicated for Kelly - the victim in the nine-year-old case suddenly shows up and sticks a gun in Kelly's face.

Flawed, caustic, sharp, and cynical, Kelly is one of those hard-boiled protagonists - at least in the early chapters of the novel - who will remind readers of the best of Chandler's and Spillane's characters. An alienated but skillful Kelly moves nimbly through the raw and dangerous streets of Chicago, but he also stumbles rather awkwardly now and then because of his vulnerability with women.

When leisure time permits, a literate and complicated Kelly enjoys reading the classics - including Homer and Cicero - but the problems and developments (in the cinematic, made-for-TV-style plot) move so quickly that Kelly is quickly running out of time. In fact, as the body count and the dangers begin to increase all around him, Kelly finds that he is involved in an extremely treacherous game of cat-and-mouse involving a notorious serial killer and what seems to have been a massive cover-up involving police and prosecutors.

And that is a general preview to this new book from a talented, imaginative fellow who splits his time between different media - television, film, and print - and the book itself is evidence of that kind of split-personality because the book sometimes resembles good fiction and it sometimes resembles a somewhat predictable screenplay. In fact, when the book began, I was excited about what promised to become a top-notch Chandleresque adventure, but instead it became more like an entertaining cable-TV series pilot. Readers will have to judge for themselves whether or not that kind of stylistic duality appeals to them.

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