Wednesday, January 17

Homicide 69 by Sam Reaves

Review by Gloria Feit


On a rainy day in 1969 Chicago, homicide detective Mike Dooley, along with his partner, Pete Olson, are called to the scene of a murder.  They find the naked body of a woman who had been badly beaten, burned, hog-tied, strangled, and left along the riverbank.


A veteran who'd served in the Pacific in WWII, Dooley now worries about his son, serving in Vietnam.  The era of the Black Panthers, Woodstock, the aftermath of the 1968 riots, the Manson murders and the first moon landing is brought vividly to life and perfectly recreated. 


The investigation into the girl's death discloses that she was a former Playboy bunny and mobster's girlfriend, and leads to the possibility of Mafia connections and, this being late '60's Chicago, political corruption.  The corruption takes place on all levels, of course.  In interviewing an employee at a local bar, these exchanges take place:  We're not exactly fond of cops around here."  "And why is that?" Dooley said, knowing the answer…"Well, let's see.  It might be the payoffs.  Yeah, I'd say that's it.  It's the bag full of money we have to give your colleagues every month…I'm a skeptic, that's all.   People with more experience than me have told me it's kind of hard to tell the difference between the cops and the mob sometimes."  Interspersed with the police work are scenes of Mike's domestic life, typical of a household with sullen teenagers and the tension normal when one child is fighting a war overseas, an unpopular war with an uncertain outcome, with constant fear for those at home waiting. 


The book is well crafted.  Dooley is a good cop and a very human protagonist.  The investigation is realistically portrayed, with relentless routines and gradual progress.   And of course other crimes take place that must be dealt with as well. 


This is a long book, but it never feels padded.  It has a mostly unexpected conclusion but one that makes perfect sense.  Homicide 69 is a terrific novel, very well-written, and is recommended.   The book jacket reads A Dooley Crime Novel, and one can therefore hope that it is the beginning of a series.


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