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START SHOOTING by Charlie Newton Kirkus Star

START SHOOTING

By Charlie Newton

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-53469-7
Publisher: Doubleday

Thirty years after the rape-murder of his childhood girlfriend Coleen Brennan in his West Side Chicago neighborhood—a crime for which a retarded African-American man was executed—young Latino cop Bobby Vargas finds himself accused of the killing.

Meanwhile, Coleen's twin sister Arleen, an actress, is targeted by criminal elements after fatally shooting a member of the Korean mafia on a police sting she was forced into by Bobby's older brother Ruben, also a cop. Bobby's and Arleen's chances of survival: not great. Doing for the Windy City what The Wire did for Baltimore and James Ellroy's novels did for Los Angeles, this book uncovers with sardonic intensity the deep and seemingly irreversible connections between crime, politics, business and tabloid journalism. Chicago is re-bidding for the 2016 Olympics (Rio, which won the bid in real life, has dropped out in the novel), meaning the City Hall will do anything to protect its image. With star crime reporter Tracy Moens on the prowl for juicy exposes for the fictional Chicago Herald, that's going to take some doing. Hardly a page is turned in this headlong melodrama without someone getting threatened, beat up, shot, killed or, in Bobby’s case, framed for the abuse of a 7-year-old "peewee gangster." Even with matters of life and death playing out around him, Bobby, a blues-guitar aficionado since a childhood encounter with Howlin' Wolf, is desperate not to blow an opportunity to perform with the legendary Memphis Horns. Arleen is equally desperate not to ruin her odds-on chance of winning the role of Blanche DuBois in a major revival of "A Streetcar Named Desire" (opposite Judd Law!). In the midst of all the violence and madness, these career concerns seem unrealistic. But in fiction as audaciously dialed up as this, a little more fantasy can't hurt.

Following up Calumet City (2008), Newton delivers an even more thrilling, densely packed novel that makes most Chicago crime thrillers seem tame.