The Chicago Syndicate: "Windy City"

Monday, March 06, 2017

"Windy City"

The mayor of Chicago is found dead at his desk just past 11 p.m. in his boxer shorts, face-down in what's left of a poisoned extra-cheese-prosciutto-and-artichoke pizza.

As the mayor's inner circle convenes, his gay chief of staff commits suicide and his longtime secretary confesses to the cops her long-ago affair with hizzoner.

Ambitious city council members can't wait until the body is cold to start maneuvering to take over.

In a city legendary for its dead voting early and often, it's no surprise that the deceased mayor continues to weigh heavily on the postmortem proceedings.

Stepping forward as "interim acting mayor" amid this delectable political chaos is Windy City's articulate and witty protagonist, Indian-born Sundaran "Sunny" Roopini.

A stand-up alderman from the 48th district, Roopini must juggle the council members' egos, dirty secrets and dealmaking while pinch-hitting for the kingpin with appearances at weddings, church services and other mundane municipal duties.

A widower whose wife was murdered, Roopini shows so much tenderness and wisdom in quelling the storm at City Hall while raising two daughters that readers will not forget soon him.

Best known as the host of National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, Scott Simon is also the author of the sports-fan memoir Home and Away, the non-fiction book Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball, and Pretty Birds, his previous novel based in war-torn Sarajevo. But this compelling murder mystery, laden with insider big-city politics, is about Chicago and nowhere else.

Whether it's a paean to Chicago's bitter cold, or tips on how to make Indian dosas, or an embrace of the city's diverse populace, Simon leaves no doubt about his passion for the city.

The author's detailed descriptions are deep-dish, so self-indulgent sometimes that they make you feel like you've eaten too much of a good thing. And Windy City, can be a windy novel. But just as you start thinking it's all too much, Simon comes up with another great line or a sneak-up-on-you aside so clever or humorous, you read on.

For Chicago lovers and city-politics fiends, this novel is a must-read.

For everyone else, the book offers an insider's view of the kind of urban political fray — albeit fictional — that Barack Obama emerged from as an Illinois state legislator representing Chicago's South Side.

Thanks to Don Oldenburg

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