Sunday, April 18, 2010

Michael Harvey's The Third Rail

Second book read during the Girl Detective's 15/15/15 project was Michael Harvey's The Third Rail.

This was a review copy received from Knopf late in the week. It's atypical behavior on my part not to let a book that won't require returning to a library languish for awhile in deference to the almighty library due dates, but after a preliminary glance at its first page, I determined this one was exactly what I was in the mood for.

Third in a series of crime novels involving Chicago private investigator Michael Kelly, The Third Rail is a fast moving smooth ride of thrills. Kelly's on the Southport L platform the morning a woman is abruptly shot; he gives chase and is ambushed in an alley, hit upside the head with a handgun. After a second woman is shot an hour later while riding the train, Kelly receives a phone call from the killer, who taunts him with a classical reference: "Homer pegged it as a zero-sum game. The more you suffer, the greater my glory." Still later, a chemical weapon is dumped into the holy water at the Holy Name Cathedral and a possible anthrax timebomb is planted in the subway.

Both the mayor and the FBI want Kelly's help in locating and killing the ones responsible, but no one will take seriously his theory that the suspect must be someone he's known in his past. Meanwhile, the deaths mount up and Kelly's girlfriend is kidnapped and used as a pawn to draw Kelly deeper into the game.

Harvey bases his plot on real life events--a 1977 L train accident and a 1993 Pentagon report, "Terror 2000," that assessed various terrorist scenarios including anthrax being released in a subway system. A journalist and documentary producer as well as a writer of crime fiction, Harvey writes dialogue that's pitch perfect.

The only wrong note sounded was that of Kelly's beloved puppy Maggie. Equipped with a bladder of steel, Maggie could last until Kelly returned at 10:30 at night, cuddle and eat dinner, all before "a quick tour of the neighborhood." She'd have been more believable if Kelly had mentioned a dog-walker or if she'd been created a cat.

1 comment:

  1. I stopped reading crime novels at 18. The problem with starting one was that you couldn't put it down unless you had read it all and being in a business school, there wasn't enough time for a lengthy session with any book except course ones.

    I read another book by a Pakistani author on Sunday (link to my blog at bottom). Saturday was Russian author day and today (Monday) I am reading Steinbeck. And I have to admit, I am slightly daunted by it! I did try and look for George Gissing at the Sunday Bazar book stalls (a sort of flea market where you get books at dirt cheap prices) but couldn't find any. I did, though, buy a lot of others which included Maugham, Zola, D.H.Lawrence and Huxley. Can't wait to read them once this project ends!


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