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Another rough, gritty Chicago Police write-up by the talented Mr. Gash (a.k.a. Bill Granger and Bill Griffith)--even weaker as mystery or procedural than Priestly Murders (1984), but nearly as strong on ugly inside-Chicago (press, politics, police) atmosphere. The murder victim is boozy, miserable, middle-aged reporter Francis X. Sweeney--who has recently been writing (from another reporter's notes) an expos‚ series on a dubious cult/crime-gang called The Brotherhood of Mecca. Was Sweeney killed, then, by the vengeful black cultists? So it seems--and Sweeney's newspaper (recently swallowed up by a Murdoch-like tycoon) puts relentless, sensationalistic pressure on the Police to take quick action against the Brotherhood. Meanwhile, however, the Police--including surly Sgt. Terry Flynn and his partner/lover Karen Kovac--are hamstrung by politically motivated doings over at the D.A.'s office. And Flynn finds himself focusing on non-cult suspects in the Sweeney murder--from newspaper colleagues to hoodlum loan sharks to the genuinely grieving widow. The murder-solution here is much heavier on thematic resonance than plausibility. Throughout, in fact, Gash seems to have taken on more themes than he can handle--racial tensions, political sliminess, police ethics, press/government conflicts, the demise of the old newspapers--in such a terse little tale. And the tight-lipped narration sometimes slips over into limp street-poetry. (""Winter had settled in like a rude old man with loud stories."") But, with zestfully foul dialogue and vivid quick-sketchwork, this unsatisfying episode provides plenty of stark, disturbing entertainment along the way--plus more than a few roman … clef touches for Chicago readers.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1985
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston