Cover image of "The Governor's Wife," an example of hard-boiled crime fiction

You yearn for hard-boiled crime fiction that’s set in today’s reality? Read on.

Marilyn Stasio covers books on crime for the New York Times Book Review. Though I sometimes disagree with her judgment, I’ve found interesting leads in her column from time to time. The most recent of these was The Governor’s Wife by Michael Harvey, the fifth of his novels featuring Chicago private eye Mike Kelly.

To describe Harvey’s writing, I can’t possibly do anything better than Jon Foro did in his mini-review for of Harvey’s first novel: “Michael Harvey’s gritty debut, The Chicago Way, rips the classic crime novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett from their 30s origins and slams them like a brass fist into the teeth of modern-day Chicago.”

Kelly, a former cop, is a lone wolf P.I. with a network of specialists on tap to lend a hand in his investigations, including, of course, a detective still active on the Chicago P.D. Kelly is used to scrounging for cases to pay the bills, so he is, to put it mildly, surprised when he receives an anonymous email asking him to locate a missing person — and receive $100,000 up front and another $100,000 after he finds the man.

The Governor’s Wife (Michael Kelly #5) by Michael Harvey ★★★★☆

The missing person is Ray Perry, the latest in a long line of Illinois Governors who have run afoul of the justice system. Two years ago, Perry was convicted and sentenced to thirty years in the pen for outdoing himself in extorting money from the system. (At least some judges, even in Chicago, take a dim view of flagrant corruption.) The problem — and the reason Kelly has been hired to locate him — is that Perry disappeared from the courthouse immediately after being sentenced and hasn’t been seen in the two years since.

Interesting set-up, no? One of the strengths of this hard-boiled crime novel is that Harvey is adept at surprising the reader. If you’re a veteran reader of detective fiction, you may anticipate some of the twists and turns of the plot, but it’s extraordinarily unlikely that you’ll figure them all out. Of course, what’s clear from the start is that this novel is all about corruption in Chicago. I’ll leave it at that, since I don’t want to spoil the story for you.

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