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BOOK REVIEW: BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD
BY SEAN CHERCOVER

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Chercover's debut novel is a clear eyed, unsympathetic look at Chicago and much of what has made that city so intriguing but intimidating and dangerous over the years. Yet it's obvious that the author has a deep affection for his hometown.

When private investigator Ray Dungeon gets an opportunity to work as a bodyguard for a few weeks, his first inclination is to accept the job, usually this type of gig is a few days of relatively easygoing work with the certainty of a check waiting at the close of the assignment. But as he learns more about the proposal, he realizes that a lower tier member of "the outfit" is involved in the safety threat. "The outfit" is Chicago slang for the local branch of organized crime. Knowing of the mobster's involvement is enough to give Ray pause and as a courtesy to a higher level of "the outfit" he visits a local crime boss who has been a helpful contact in the past.

What he learns gives him confidence to take the bodyguard job, but events turn sour very quickly. Eventually Ray realizes that he has found himself in the middle of a turf war, with some ambitious but very unsavory thugs on one side, and his former cordial contact within "the outfit" on the other.

The action moves from the streets of Chicago to the glitter of Hollywood and back. Ray struggles to keep his client focused on his own safety, every step of the way fighting the lure of names sparkling in marquee lights and featured in the scrolling credits at the close of a motion picture. We meet crooked cops and honest ones, sadistic mobsters and outfit members who regard their position as "just a job." Incriminating photographs are motives for blackmail and double dealing. Journalists work the phones, looking for a tip to the next big story. Cabbies provide Ray with important assistance.

One after another, classic features from detective novels are given a fresh entertaining spin by Chercover.

And brightening the dustcover and taking an important part in almost every turn of the plot, the city of Chicago welcomes a new celebrant of its history and character.

REVIEWED BY WOODSTOCK

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