Corrupt Chicago cops are central to The Innocence Game by Michael Harvey

The Innocence Project was founded at Yeshiva University in 1992. Its success in exonerating falsely convicted individuals sparked the creation of similar efforts covering all fifty states as well as the UK, Canada, and Australia. Many are members of the Innocence Network. A separate, unaffiliated Innocence Project (later renamed the Justice Project) was established in the Medill School of Journalism at Chicago’s Northwestern University. Author Michael Harvey is a member of the Medill faculty. Although he insists that the program he describes in his novel, The Innocence Game, bears no resemblance to the real-world Justice Project, he was clearly inspired by its work.

In The Innocence Game, Harvey displays a firm command of the techniques of mystery and suspense fiction. His writing is fluid, and he steadily builds suspense to a surprising, if not shocking, conclusion. Unfortunately, like so many of his predecessors in the genre, he relies far too much on implausible coincidences to make his story work. It’s simply not believable.


The Innocence Game by Michael Harvey (2013) 258 pages @@½ (2½ out of 5)


The Chicago Police play a central role in The Innocence Game, but only one of the officers portrayed as an individual character proves to be honest and effective. The author clearly has a low opinion of the department. Shortly after the first appearance of police officers in the story, a Medill professor advises the student who is the novel’s protagonist: “Don’t screw with a Chicago cop. They can be ruthless, extremely violent, and largely devoid of conscience. If you threaten them, they’ll do whatever they have to in order to protect themselves or whatever else they feel needs protecting. They carry a badge. They carry a gun. And some of them don’t think twice before using either.” Harvey’s story highlights a long-running vein of corruption in the Chicago Police Department. It’s pivotal in the novel.

For further reading

I did read one other Michael Harvey novel that I found much stronger than The Innocence Game. My review is at Hard-boiled crime fiction set in contemporary Chicago.

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