The murder of a rabbi takes an Irish cop out past his depth.
Chicago after the 1871 fire is a place of immense suffering, vile political machinations and unrestrained greed. Frank Hanley is a bitter Irish Catholic detective afloat in this world, a former crook whose boss, Sean Doyle, had one of his henchmen rape and kill Frank’s girlfriend for crossing him. Now a cop with some dangerous enemies, Frank gets the case of an Eastern European rabbi robbed and murdered while at prayer. The murder weapon, probably a silver menorah, has vanished along with a valuable spice box. Since most members of the congregation speak only Yiddish and distrust authority, Frank is fortunate that the rabbi’s daughter Rivka is brave enough to defy her friends and help him find her father’s killer. Although many sizable donations have come in since the fire, the mayor has handed over the relief funds to a committee of wealthy residents convinced that helping the poor will lead to idleness and drunkenness. Meanwhile, whole families are struggling to survive in the burned-out foundations of houses or cheaply constructed barracks. Although Frank discovers that the rabbi and his closest friend were stealing supplies and giving them to the poor of all faiths, the powers that be want the case closed as a simple robbery and murder. When Frank learns that Doyle is involved in looting the relief funds, he redoubles his efforts, even though it may mean losing the job he's grown to love.
Change the particulars and Pirrone (No Less in Blood, 2011) might be talking about Chicago today. The deeply nuanced mystery is bolstered by fine writing and historical detail.