The pursuers nearly upstage the pursued in this thriller about the brutal serial killings of young boys.
Although series protagonist PI Michael Kelly does a cameo in this latest from Chicago noir scribe Harvey, the author turns his attention to three eager journalism grad students—and the reader readily follows along. The trio—Ian Joyce (narrator), Sarah Gold and Jake Havens—enroll at Medill School of Journalism in a seminar devoted to wrongful convictions, a class that has led to the release of many unjustly imprisoned persons. The students tackle the tough case of James Harrison, convicted 14 years ago for the brutal killing of Skyler Wingate, a 10-year-old boy. Testing of blood on the convicted man’s jeans perfectly matched the victim’s DNA. Harrison went to prison, where he was murdered. Now, at Havens’ door, someone drops a note bearing the original case number and one sentence: “I KILT THE BOY.” Then, near the scene of the original crime, the students find the body of another youth, the gruesome details of his killing echoing Wingate’s murder. However well-worn, the serial-killer plot works here, first since Harvey keeps throwing tough obstacles in the investigative journalists’ paths. In unsettling scenes, thuggish Windy City police thwart and threaten, determined to keep the kids off the case. But what really propels the narrative are the tense dynamics among its three protagonists. Why is aggressive, sometimes violent Havens so obsessed with the case? What message comes in a letter a lawyer hands to shy Joyce in a prologue? Will Joyce and Gold kindle an affair? Or is she already involved with Havens? In a wily and surprising wrap-up, Harvey links both plotlines, leaving only one question unanswered: Is this the first of a spinoff series? At fade-out, narrator Joyce says the case was “...the beginning of whatever was to come.” Do the math.
Not as tricky and gritty as Harvey’s Kelly cases, but the appealing kids at the book's center pick up the slack and leave us wanting more.