Jennifer Reese
August 20, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Chicago Way

Current Status
In Season
Michael Harvey
, Mystery and Thriller

We gave it a B

In Michael Harvey’s The Chicago Way, the co-creator/exec producer of A&E’s Cold Case Files composes punchy noir sentences that he stacks into punchy noir paragraphs that have all the rhythm, irony, and wit of the genre’s manly classics of the 1920s and ’30s.

One windy night, Chicago PI Michael Kelly is drinking Earl Grey tea in his apartment and compiling a list of the finest moments in Cubs history, when his old partner, retired cop John Gibbons, turns up. ”I put the Cubs away, pulled open the bottom drawer, and found a bottle of Powers Irish,” he says. ”John took it straight. Just to be sociable, I gave Sir Earl a jolt.” Gibbons proceeds to describe a gruesome unsolved rape case that’s been haunting him for the last nine years, and that he finally wants to crack. Before the night is through, Gibbons is shot dead on a nearby pier, leaving Kelly to handle the cold rape case as well as a burgeoning string of related murders, and a handful of amusingly described femmes fatales (”She was good-looking. In a redheaded, cold, clinical sort of way. The kind of person you’d think was attractive, if you were into guilt and relentless remorse”) who come with the package.

And this is a package, alas, an overheated boilerplate thriller populated by slinky but wounded female figurines; tediously psycho bad guys; and implausible plot twists that strain to shock. Maybe the greatest tragedy is that a writer as gifted as Harvey couldn’t produce a more original book. B

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