Monday, April 16, 2007

Big City, Bad Blood

The private detective novel is constantly revitalized by authors with vision who take the conceit of the knight-errant and push it forward with a contemporary spin.

Authors such as Laura Lippman, Robert Crais, Steve Hamilton and S.J. Rozan continue to refresh this sub-genre. To that list, add Chicago author Sean Chercover, whose debut Big City, Bad Blood signals a true talent.

Like the best authors of private detective novels, Chercover doesn't just give a thrilling plot -- and it is indeed a story that starts strong and only accelerates -- but he also looks at his city, its past and present, movers and criminals, its beauty and its chaos.

Chercover's conflicted, complex hero perfectly matches his plot. A former newspaper reporter disillusioned with journalism, Ray Dudgeon has found another career as a private detective. Both jobs brought him in contact with some of Chicago's best and worst residents, especially in his latest job. Ray agrees to be the bodyguard for Bob Loniski, who's in Chicago to find sites for a movie shoot. Bob ventured into unknown territory and witnessed a crime. Bob needs protection from the "Chicago Outfit," the current term for the local mob. Soon the case extends to blackmail and corruption among city officials.

Chercover keeps the suspense high and also knows just how far to use violence as a plot device and when to pull back. Ray is a multilayered character; readers will look forward to exploring this new detective's personality and history.

Big City, Bad Blood will rank high on the list of the year's best debuts. Ironically, one of the other top debuts of 2007 is Chercover's fellow Chicagoan Marcus Sakey's The Blade Itself: A Novel.

Thanks to Oline H. Cogdill

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