In this crime thriller, a female newspaper columnist receives notes from a vigilante who brags to her that he’s taken it upon himself to clean up Chicago.
A vigilante who calls himself Paladin roams the streets of Chicago knocking off drug dealers, hit men and arms merchants, then bragging about it in letters written to Herald News columnist Nikki Harrison. She’s hardly flattered by the fact that he always signs his missives with “love.” The police get involved and, wondering if Paladin is someone Nikki knows, begin investigating people in her life, including her ex-husband. But as name after name is scratched off their list, Paladin continues to strike and make Nikki unwillingly complicit in his crimes, leading to national media coverage. A single mother with a daughter to protect, Nikki eventually takes matters into her own hands and begins a parallel investigation of her own. Her newspaper also hires a bodyguard, Gideon Small, to look after her. The relationship between Nikki and Gideon heats up, but will it prevent her from finding out Paladin’s real identity? This old-fashioned Chicago crime novel harkens back to the golden age of Chicago crime reporting enshrined by Hecht and MacArthur in their 1928 play, The Front Page. Nikki Harrison makes for a worthy, latter-day Hildy Johnson, and the narrative, although overlong, moves at a rapid clip. There are also chapters written from Paladin’s point-of-view, which go deep into his mind, illuminating his chilling pathology. The author seems to write knowingly about how a big-city newsroom and a police bureaucracy function, adding to the story’s real-life feel. Too bad, then, that the story struggles to generate any real suspense, although the author partly compensates by pulling off a real feat of legerdemain with the surprise ending.
Nothing new, but the well-paced story rings with true Chicago verve, despite the book’s unnecessary length and relative lack of suspense.