Wednesday, January 17

Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover

Review by Gloria Feit


Ray Dudgeon is a 38-year-old Chicago p.i. hired to protect a witness in a building scam, the last of four potential witnesses at an impending fraud trial left alive to testify.  It seems that the Mob is involved [or the Outfit as it is apparently called in Chicago], not atypical for that city it seems.  Corruption caused Ray to lose his idealism as well as his prior job as a journalist, only to see it rear its ugly head again as he tries to keep his client alive.  One more scandal would be nothing unusual: "Chicago politics: another day, another scandal.  I suppose that shows some progress.  They've always pulled the same crap, but in the good old days, they never got caught.   Now at least some people were trying to keep things on the level.  Noble, if naïve."  In his personal life, Ray has fallen in love with a nurse who would rather Ray be anything other than a man who has to carry a gun, and is struggling to find a solution to that.  And she also needs him to 'open up' a little, which is even more of a struggle for Ray.


The dialogue, characterizations and settings – both Chicago and LA, where a side trip in his bodyguarding duties takes him - are all well rendered, and the protagonist clever and genuinely, eminently likeable, despite his tendency to break the law when circumstances demand it, in sometimes violent ways.  And the man has excellent taste in music.


Early in the book, Ray muses: "In a different life I'd have been a musician.  But in this life I was utterly without talent.  I'd proved that to myself and to a succession of tolerant music teachers in my younger years.   Eventually I learned to be content with listening.  One must accept one's limitations."  Unspectacular but typical of the solid writing that often put a smile on my face while engrossed in this book.   On second thought, perhaps spectacular is just the word for this wonderful debut novel.


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