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Feature Wed Jan 31 2007

Review: Big City, Bad Blood

Big City, Bad Blood Big City, Bad Blood
by Sean Chercover
(William Morrow, 2007; 294 p.)

Ray Dudgeon is a former journalist working as a private investigator in Chicago, hoping he can bring about more real change as a detective than he could as a reporter. Bob Loniski is a Hollywood locations manager, renting a warehouse on the South Side to film a new movie titled Final Revenge. But when Bob sees too much, he becomes un witting witness in a case against Frank DiMarco, a crook with significant ties to the Outfit. Now the Outfit wants Bob dead, and Ray is the only one standing in their way.

Ray takes the case to protect Bob, but he is beset by obstacles, and meanwhile, the other witnesses are turning up dead. Ray's investigation eventually leads him deep into Outfit politics, the Chicago sex trade, blackmail and corrupt public officials. Ray might be able to unravel the mystery, but will it be soon enough to save his client?

Big City, Bad Blood is a fast-paced crime novel filled with twists and turns, yet leading to a satisfying conclusion — but not too satisfying, because this book has all the makings of being the first in a series.

This is a story without clear cut good guys and bad guys. The characters have complex allegiances and motivations, which gives Big City, Bad Blood a ring of truth. Ray Dudgeon is far from faultless, and he may enjoy the more violent aspects of his work a little too much. Yet the story is told from his point of view, so readers also know he cares deeply for the people in his life, and he inspires great loyalty and friendship in others. It makes Ray just sympathetic enough to keep the reader firmly on his side.

Author Sean Chercover grew up in Toronto, but he earned his BA at Columbia College Chicago and currently splits his time between the two cities. Big City, Bad Blood is his first novel, although he has extensive experience writing for print, television and film. Chercover is also a former private investigator. He worked as a PI in both Chicago and New Orleans. This comes as little surprise given the level of realism he achieves in the book.

Big City, Bad Blood is a sharply written debut novel, with a tough protagonist and gritty crime drama that captures the essence of Chicago. It is highly recommended.

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