Ross Duncan searches 1934 Chicago for the ever-elusive Irishman in a tale of vengeance (Sleep Not, My Child, 2013, etc.), the third novel in Bartley’s hard-boiled thriller series.
When former bank robber Duncan can’t find the Irishman, the man responsible for a loved one’s death, he does the next best thing: kills the Irishman’s brother and steals his girlfriend, Evelyn. The Irishman’s retaliation catches others in the crossfire. A Chicago criminal organization grants Duncan permission to hunt down the Irish gangster, provided that Duncan works with a killer-for-hire who’s rarely sober. The historical thriller showcases recognizable faces for readers keeping up with the series. Each character struggles with dramatic entanglements; in addition to the Irishman and Evelyn, there’s Duncan’s friend and bank-robbing associate, Jimmy, whose wife is dying; and special agent Trestleman, with whom Duncan shares a tenuous alliance. This installment, however, is more despondent: more violence, more dead bodies and a much more pessimistic Duncan, who’s fixated solely on his vendetta. It’s missing much of the tenderness of the previous entry, in which Duncan was resolute in his pursuit of an abducted boy. But it does show progression for both the hero and story: It’s hard to ignore the image of a .45 resting atop Duncan’s Bible, two items he always carries to signify his acceptance of the violent path. By this time, touches of noir are expected and the crisp dialogue doesn’t disappoint, such as Duncan’s rather blunt appreciation of beauty: “My eyes were filled with what they saw.” And Evelyn may very well be Bartley’s first genuine femme fatale, as the hero is torn between petty resentment over a pornographic photo featuring Evelyn (because of a man whose face can’t be seen) and his complete lack of trust in her. He’s at least smart enough to brace himself when she leads him into an unfamiliar room.
Exquisite in its gloom; should earn even more Ross Duncan fans.