The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey – review

the blade itself marcus sakeyI originally reviewed The Blade itself on March 4th, 2007.

Years ago Danny and Evan pulled a job together that in the blink of an eye went horribly wrong. Evan went to jail and Danny turned his life around. Now Evan is out of jail and wants to be paid back for not dropping his friend’s name. The cost for this is pulling one last major job together. This will set into motion a series of events that will find these two lifelong friends battling for everything in the streets of Chicago.

The Blade Itself is a fantastic book that is one of the best debuts of the year so far and should be a front-runner for awards come selection time. It’s hard to believe that it is a debut novel because of the assured, the frenetic pace and the detailed three-dimensional characters.

There is a lot of fine crime fiction coming out of Chicago these days and The Blade Itself is an outstanding and worthy addition to that cities canon.

The relationship that Danny has with Karen is finely and lovingly detailed. They provide an excellent counter balance to each other. To see Karen through Danny’s eyes is to know just how important she is to him and how important his new life is. Due to its importance the decision to help Evan is illustrated with the appropriate gravity. We know what the risk is and how high the cost is. Because Danny is at heart a sympathetic character we feel his pain when he does.

Evan is painted with broad but detailed strokes so that his menace comes off the page in palpable waves. This isn’t a monster from the movies but a monster born from the streets, and they are often the more scary ones.

Karen is a tender counterpart to Evans menace. She provides grounding, promise and incentive for Danny. Through her character we can see what it is exactly that Danny has achieved and how important it is to him. Danny’s new life is a good one and even though his old life pulls him also we want his decision to be the right one.

Karen is the angel on Danny’s shoulder whispering in his ear while Evan sits on the other shoulder whispering into the other. What’s at stake is nothing less then Danny’s soul. But once a deal with the devil is made one can’t come away unchanged.

The eventual convergence of Danny’s two lives is paved from the start of the book and Sakey does a remarkable job of sustaining that tension through the duration until the fateful confrontation. When Evan and Danny have their showdown it doesn’t disappoint and even manages to surprise as Sakey makes some wise choices about his characters. He also manages to finish stronger then he starts with the closing moments of the book existing as some of the finest writing in the entire narrative.

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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About Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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