A carefully plotted mystery, the first in a series featuring indefatigable Chicago columnist Deuce Mora.
The title refers to the case files Mora dips into when she doesn’t have an idea for a column, tips she’s gotten for semi-interesting stories to follow up on later. The lead she follows this time quickly turns deadly after an old man named Vinnie Colangelo agrees to meet at a bar but is tortured and murdered after she drops him off at his house. He seemed nervous and made reference to news in Las Vegas. The next day, Mora learns a senator has been assassinated in Las Vegas. Partially out of professional curiosity and partly out of a sense of responsibility to find who killed Vinnie, she starts on a trail that brings her into the cross hairs of organized crime and compels her to investigate an old friend. She ends up diving into local government corruption and a 57-year-old massacre at a migrant camp. Mora gets beat up, shot at, and intimidated along the way, but she’s tough, noirish, and Chicago through and through. She’s human though: she doubts herself, and not every lead means progress. Heller (Handyman, 1998), a former reporter who broke the Tuskegee syphilis story, skips no detail as she follows Mora’s thought processes and every conversation she has with a witness. Colorful characters surround her: Eric Ryland, her editor; Sully, her old flame; and a bevy of sources who range from helpful to hostile. Heller pulls off a neat stunt, tying together all the different crimes—Vinnie getting framed on a federal charge in the 1970s, the burning of the migrant camp in the ’50s, and the murder of the senator in the present—in a compelling package that actually adds up. Heller does tend to have Mora notice everything and linger on a historical detail or two about Chicago, which amount to short detours from the action. Yet it always ties back to Mora and the intriguing main plot. Heller should be able to get a lot of mileage out of such a great character and supporting cast.
A promising first adventure; if Heller can keep the quality this high, mystery fans will have a lot to look forward to.