Chicago in 1956 is a tough town, but a boy’s dismembered body found stuffed in a suitcase shocks even the toughest detectives in Guzlowski’s (Little Schoolboys, 2017, etc.) novel.
Hank Purcell and Marvin Bondarowicz are the detectives who catch the case. Purcell, whose time in World War II is still fresh in his memory, might be the only cop who can partner with—or control—Bondarowicz. A sarcastic, bitter man who belittles his fellow Jews as much as everyone else, Bondarowicz drinks on the job and savagely beats up a pair of gay men he encounters. The detectives question witnesses and possible suspects, but when more bodies are found, their bosses and even Purcell wonder if they’ll ever catch the killer. The author grew up in Chicago during the time of the novel, and it shows in his details of places, people, and the prejudices of the era. The author’s strongest asset is his dialogue; whether it’s the cops talking with each other or neighbors and crooks casually chatting, the talk always rings true. Less successful is the plotting, with Purcell’s too-frequent war memories slowing things down. And while the ending might be realistic, it’s one that some readers might find upsetting.
This vivid re-creation of a time and place may not be enough to make Chicago your kind of town.