BOOK REVIEW: BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD
It should have been a simple job: being the bodyguard of Bob Loniski, a "locations manager in the film industry," who is a reluctant witness in a version of the Fake Landlord scam involving the underworld figure Frank DiMarco. Yeah, DiMarco was a member of the Chicago Outfit--the term used instead of Mafia in Chicago--but, he wasn’t a "made man," and many other members of the Outfit didn’t seem to think highly of DiMarco. In fact, when Ray Dudgeon, the hardboiled PI hero of Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover asks one of the Outfit bosses, Johnny Grieco, about DiMarco, he was told DiMarco "would try to intimidate, sure, but he could do five years easily and probably wouldn’t have to do even that much for his little landlord scam."
Not much in life is ever as simple as it might at first seem to be in Chercover’s page-turning thriller, and the case will pit Dudgeon against the cops, the Outfit, and the FBI in his attempts to protect Loniski. Unfortunately, though DiMarco is not a made man, he is the cousin of one of Greico’s rivals, Paul Tortelli, who believes if DiMarco goes to jail he might spill the beans on their enterprises. Also, DiMarco has sexually incriminating videotapes of political figures and policemen he’s using to blackmail them and influence their votes. He is not in himself important, but he holds a lot of power over a fairly large number of important people, so Tortelli thinks it’d be worth it to put out a hit on Bob Loniski and anyone who tries to keep him alive, like Ray Dudgeon.
Potential witnesses, former tenants of the landlord scam, start turning up dead. One woman’s death, who’d been an artist, was made to look like it was suicide--she’d apparently "walked out the window of her sixteenth-floor apartment." Another former tenant, a man, the thugs don’t bother trying to make look like a suicide; "they put about a zillion slugs into the poor bastard. Then they cut out his tongue." Even going to Las Vegas because Loniski wants to see his son for Christmas and revel in his fifteen minutes of fame at a Hollywood party doesn’t insure Loniski’s temporary safety. A bomb under the hood of Ray’s car explodes, and he and Loniski barely escape with their lives.
The excitement and tension keeps building as Dudgeon realizes by taking the case, he’s gotten himself entangled in between rival factions of Chicago’s Outfit. Chercover writes about Chicago with an intimate knowledge of the Second City, making it a character in its own right. This is only natural, as he writes from his own experience at having been a PI in Chicago. There’s a gritty realism to Big City, Bad Blood that is reminiscent of the best writing of authors like Dashiel Hammet and Raymond Chandler.
Ray Dudgeon discovers that the only way to get the Outfit to stop trying to ice him is by turning the tables on them. His continued existence depends on whether or not he can locate the files and tapes DiMarco collected and hide away, and expose the blackmail scheme and corrupt cops and politicians. The only trouble is, that’s easier said than done.
Big City, Bad Blood comes at you like a left cross to the face. It’s an intense look at Chicago’s shadowy underworld that will make you salivate for more of the same, like the effect a raw steak has on a junk yard dog. Fortunately for fans of the genre, Sean Chercover has a new Ray Dudgeon book coming out soon in hardcover, called Trigger City. There’s an excerpt from this novel included at the end of Big City, Bad Blood as a mouth watering bonus of what’s to come next from this talented author. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who likes traditional hard boiled mysteries/thrillers.
REVIEWED BY DOUGLAS R. COBB
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