In Gallagher’s noirish crime novel, a former detective tries to help the Chicago Police Department stop a string of grisly murders.
Maggie Quinn, a strong but vulnerable and mentally unstable ex-cop devastated by the death of her young daughter, comes back as a consultant to help catch the serial killer responsible for the murders of young women. The murderer strangles, slices open and literally disheartens his victims with surgical skill. It’s more howcatchim than whodunit; the rich, well-connected main culprit becomes identifiable early on, and the rest of the book dedicates itself to Quinn and her colleagues’ increasingly desperate efforts to pin the crimes on the arrogant, narcissistic but careful killer. Haunted by recurring nightmares, Quinn engages in an increasingly tense cat-and-mouse game with her prime suspect. In terse narrative and crisp dialogue, Gallagher sketches the city’s notorious corruption as well as cop culture in general. Virtually everyone is on the take, from newspapers to politicians to Quinn’s own father, doing time as a fall guy for the Chicago mob. Like the killer, they’re all crooked and crazy, just a little less so. Told from a woman’s perspective, the majority of the men come across as idiotic, evil, arrogant or some combination thereof, and women don’t fare much better. Trying to bring in the murderer, Quinn battles fellow cops and the city bureaucracy as much as external forces. “You think killers have no mercy, just try working with a bunch of twenty-year dicks,” she advises the rookie detective she’s helping with the case. The book fairly suppurates with repulsive sights and smells, as investigators, aka lab rats, collect specimens and samples, and medical examiners conduct autopsies. Despite a cliché or two, a double negative, a typo here and there, and an unconvincing hospital search scene, this tautly written but richly detailed novel contains many finely wrought passages and adept portrayals of minor as well as major characters and the city itself. To her credit, Gallagher avoids the typical Hollywood happy ending.
A darkly ominous crime thriller that takes readers on a nightmarish tour of Chicago’s seamy side.