Sakey’s second Chicago thriller (The Blade Itself, 2007) features a hard-nosed Iraq vet who’s limped home to lick his wounds after a less-than-honorable discharge. But when his straight-arrow brother is murdered, he gets caught in the crossfire of what looks like a full-scale street war.
With his brother dead, Jason Palmer finds himself sucked back into the life he thought he left behind in Iraq. In a way it feels good to resume soldiering—relying on instinct, setting aside contemplation in favor of action. The only problem: Jason’s brother has left behind a terrified eight-year-old who has no one left but his uncle. Sakey effectively shows Jason’s battle not to yield to the attractive purity of vengeance. The intricate plot has to do with a bombed-out (imaginary) neighborhood, Crenwood, that’s ravaged by gang warfare. Jason and semi-disgraced policewoman Elena Cruz soon stumble into a plot to arm rival gangs with heavy weaponry and bring about mutually assured destruction. The villains are impossibly villainous, the heroes pure, the inevitable romance between Jason and Elena strictly pro forma. The relentless pace can make the prose seem hasty. But thanks to nimble plotting, pungent atmosphere (Sakey’s gritty Chicago is wonderfully evoked) and the nicely handled analogy between combat in Iraq and the gangbangers’ vicious codes, the book works anyway.
A familiar but brutally effective action-heavy thriller, ready-made for film.