THE THIRD RAIL by Michael Harvey

Book Quote:

“The pieces of this case, maybe two or three cases, held together by the thinnest of wires: circumstance and an educated guess. The rest floated and turned in the darkness, offering themselves up as a piece of the puzzle, with no real clue as to how or why.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (APR 22, 2010)

The Windy City is the setting for Michael Harvey’s fast-paced thriller, The Third Rail. Private investigator Michael Kelly is part of a task force that includes a detective named Vince Rodriguez and a no-nonsense FBI agent, Katherine Lawson. Their goal is to find a sadistic sniper who shot several passengers riding Chicago’s public transit system. Someone in the know contacts Kelly, and the conversation leads the ex-cop to believe that the key to this puzzling case may lie in the distant past.

Unwilling to be a helpless pawn in a psychotic individual’s twisted game, Kelly launches his own investigation with the help of Hubert Russell, a “twenty-something cyber hacker.” Kelly also consults a retired policeman named Jimmy Doherty in order to gather information and gain a fresh perspective. Michael scours his memory, as he tries to figure out what happened long ago that could have driven someone to commit such vicious crimes. He soon suspects that the shooter may have an accomplice who is nursing a long-standing grudge.

Not everything in this novel is gloom and doom. Kelly has a soft spot for his year-old spaniel, Maggie, and a high regard for a beautiful judge named Rachel Swenson. Although Rachel is uncomfortable with Michael’s penchant for getting into trouble, she cares enough about him to keep him in her life. However, as events heat up, Rachel may very well run out of patience with her boyfriend’s tendency to track down felons on his own.

Harvey has a spare and straightforward writing style, enhanced by brief, staccato sentences and crisp dialogue. Dramatic descriptive passages add to the tension-filled atmosphere. After the perpetrator picks his first victim, “He pulled the trigger, and the woman dropped straight down. Like a puppet with strings cut, she was all here and there, arms, legs, and a smear of lipstick across her lips and down her chin.” This is not a prettified Chicago. There are rats the size of cats, seamy alleys filled with dumpsters, and “the last remnants of the city’s Cabrini-Green housing complex project” provide a haven for gangs and other miscreants. In the high-rise, which is now little more than a shell, “metal mailboxes scored with bullet holes ran along one wall, and the linoleum floor was covered with broken glass and a handful of syringes.” Even Chicago’s blunt mayor, John J. Wilson, is a profane and arrogant boor who bullies people into doing his bidding.

This gritty police procedural keeps us engrossed until it wanders off track during the overly cluttered conclusion. Harvey throws everything but the kitchen sink into the mix (terrorism, abduction, corruption, violence, cover-ups, you name it), and not all of the myriad twists and turns work well. However, The Third Rail is, for the most part, a suspenseful and entertaining novel that is as unpredictable and rough-edged as the most rundown areas of Chicago’s South Side.

Editor’s note: A portion of this book’s proceeds will be donated to The Cambodian Children’s Fund.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 51 readers
PUBLISHER: Knopf; 1 edition (April 20, 2010)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Michael Harvey
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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April 22, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Sleuths Series, Thriller/Spy/Caper, US Midwest

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