Monday, June 17, 2013

book review: The Chicago Way by Michael Harvey

The backstory: The Chicago Way is the first in Michael Harvey's Michael Kelly mystery series.

The basics: When private investigator Michael Kelly, a former Chicago cop, takes on an 8-year-old rape and battery case for his former partner, his partner is murdered. Now Kelly has two cases to solve.

My thoughts: After a wonderful trip to Chicago in March, I find myself drawn to fiction set in the city. The Chicago Way doesn't paint the most complementary picture of the city, particularly its politics, but Harvey captures the essence of the city beautifully.

Michael Kelly is something of an antihero himself. He reads and quotes classic Greek literature, but he's clearly fighting some demons. Harvey keeps part of Kelly mysterious, and I appreciate that. He manages to develop the character, fill in his backstory, but he doesn't overwhelm the story to paint a picture of Kelly. In this book, it seems there's no one to trust, or rather no one Kelly can really trust. Having a character I trusted, even as I get to know his dark sides, was crucial.

While Michael Kelly is an intriguing character, it's the mysteries at the center of this novel that really make it special. Harvey packs a lot of action and twists into this novel. The pace is wonderfully frenetic, and I found myself stopping only to go to the library and pick up the second book in the series, which I began as soon as I finished this one. One reason the twists and betrayals in this novel are so satisfying is that Harvey, and by extension Kelly, exist in realistic shades of grey. There are clear bad guys in this novel, of course, but there's always something human about them too. It would be too easy to only have good characters and bad ones, and mercifully, neither Harvey nor Kelly take the easy way out.

The verdict: The Chicago Way is a gritty, contemporary mystery at its best. Michael Kelly is a character to root for, and given the depth of corruption in Chicago in this novel, that's a blessing. What makes this novel so good, however, is the mystery itself. It's complicated, smart and filled with fantastic twists.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 303 pages
Publication date: August 21, 2007 
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Chicago Way from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Michael Harvey's website, follow him on Twitter, and like him on Facebook.

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