Musial (Hit Out, 2016, etc.) returns to the adventures of Max Deacon, pool hall private eye, in his latest crime novel.
Army veteran Max enjoys his life, such as it is: working his shifts at the Chicago pool hall owned by his friend Dougie, sparring with his buddy Moose Delavan in mixed martial arts, and spending his money on his customized Mustang GT. Max is always happy to help out the people he respects, like his colleague Sharon Petra, a single mother who holds two jobs to support her daughter, Selina. When Sharon asks Max to accompany her to a mysterious meeting—“You don’t have to do anything…I hope,” she tells him. “Just look menacing”—he goes along without complaint, even though he’s pretty sure she’s requesting a loan from some Czech gangsters. The next night, he finds out she’s been arrested for a triple murder. The prostitution kingpin whom Sharon met with was killed later that same day along with two of his associates, and she is the primary suspect in the crime. Sharon refuses to cooperate with the investigation or tell Max anything other than that she was trying to help her half sister. With the assistance of his brother Stan, a cop, Max takes it upon himself to clear Sharon’s name and get to the bottom of what is quickly becoming a deadly struggle among the roughest members of the Chicago underworld. Musial writes in a sharp, moody prose that is slightly too jocular to be truly noir: “Red and I played on and off, but always on Sunday nights. It wasn’t because he was a wonderful conversationalist; he was a conspiracy theorist who never shut up.” Despite his generic tough-guy flourishes—the Mustang, the pool, the whiskey, the physical prowess—Max is an oddly endearing hero whom readers genuinely root for. The plot in this installment isn’t terribly intricate or surprising—an old Army buddy’s reappearance plays out just as readers would expect—but the cast of lovable lowlifes who compose Max’s circle is enjoyable enough to keep audiences engaged. Hopefully, Musial will continue to deliver Max Deacon books for years to come.
An entertaining detective story set in the gritty Chicago underworld.