Three years ago, I reviewed Michael Harvey's debut crime novel, The Chicago Way, for Library Journal. In that review, I said, "Debut author Harvey borrows elements from Chandler and Robert B. Parker's Spenser to create an appealing, crusading sleuth." Despite those comparisons, and the familiar staccato style of writing, Harvey's Michael Kelly is his own man, created by his life in Chicago.
Ex-cop turned private investigator, Kelly was on the platform of Chicago's El when a woman was killed by a sniper. Giving chase, he was dropped in an alley, but his survival became an issue for the cops, the feds, and Kelly himself. Something felt wrong, and as the spree killer continued to target people throughout the city, Michael began to suspect he was somehow linked to the killer. The terror in the city escalates, while Michael Kelly runs his own undercover investigation. Together with a friend who is a computer hacker, Michael Kelly digs into his own past, and a tragedy on the L thirty years earlier. When his girlfriend, Judge Rachel Swenson, is caught up in the city's crisis, Kelly's instincts might not be enough to shut down a killer.
Michael Kelly is a fascinating, complicated man. In Rachel's eyes, "What you do is dangerous. You work alone. No, you don't work. You hunt. That's what you do. You hunt human beings. Human beings who often hunt human beings themselves. You carry a gun and routinely use it. You have no backup, no safety net....Worst of all, you like it." Rachel may have one part of that wrong. I don't think Michael Kelly really likes to kill. In fact, he's haunted by his own past. When a friend is found dead, he thought, "He walked away from my touch and took his spot in the gallery of dead faces, waiting, apparently, to witness my grief."
Michael Harvey's investigator, Michael Kelly, is a creation of the city where he grew up. He's cynical, worldly, with little trust in politicians, the FBI, or the Catholic Church. And, he's caught up in a bigger disaster than anyone comprehends. If you thought of Boston as Spenser's city, you'll find Chicago is Michael Kelly's. Chicago, and Michael Kelly, are brilliantly brought to life in a book that's impossible to put down, Harvey's terrifying The Third Rail.
Michael Harvey's website is www.michaelharveybooks.com
The Third Rail by Michael Harvey. Alfred A. Knopf, ©2010. ISBN 9780307272508 (hardcover), 304p.
Here's the book trailer for The Third Rail, but, to be honest, it doesn't do the book justice. The book is much more intense than the trailer.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received my review copy from Michael Harvey's publicist, in hopes I would review it.