THE CHICAGO WAY by Michael Harvey: Book Review

The Chicago Way seems to be a tough, corrupt way if Michael Harvey’s series opener is any indication.

Michael Kelly, a former Chicago detective who left the force after cocaine was planted in his car, is now a private investigator. His former partner, John Gibbons, approaches him in an attempt to get Kelly to help him find out the truth about a nine-year-old case in which a woman was brutally raped and stabbed.  The day after the attack, when Gibbons went to the hospital to interview the woman, she’s gone, and so is any indication that the attack took place.  Instead, he’s given a medal, a raise, and a promotion, and told to forget that anything had happened the night before.

Now retired, Gibbons’ conscience is bothering him and he wants to find out the truth of the rape.   All this time Gibbons had thought the victim had been killed in the attack, but she has just come back “from the dead” in a letter addressed to him, and he wants Kelly to investigate.  Kelly agrees, but the next morning he gets a phone call that his former partner has been found dead at the Navy Pier.  And when Kelly returns home from seeing the body, the rape victim is waiting for him, gun in hand.

The city of Chicago is brought vividly to life in this book, almost another character, with its buildings, highways, eateries, and bars.  It’s definitely a city that can both enthrall you and frighten you, depending on whether you’re a tourist or a resident, living on the Gold Coast or in the slums.

Harvey has a nice style, reminiscent of Robert B. Parker’s early Spenser books, with a fine mix of violence and humor.  It’s hard to combine these two, but Harvey does it.  He also does a wonderful job with the many characters that inhabit the novel; each one is given a separate and distinct voice. And there are a lot of supporting characters–Nicole, the crime tech whom Kelly has known since childhood; Diane, the news anchor who’s covering the Gibbons murder and provides a bit of sexual tension; Elaine, the rape victim who comes to life after nine years; Bennett, the assistant D.A. with an unrequited longing for Nicole; and two cops, Rodriguez and Masters.

The Chicago Way is the first in this series, with two other novels following. I plan to pick them up very soon and read my way back to the Windy City.

You can read more about Michael Harvey at his web site.

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