Wednesday, January 17, 2007

BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD by Sean Chercover

In the opening pages of Chercover's debut novel, former Chicago reporter-turned-P.I. Ray Dudgeon takes a beating on his way to a date with the woman he just might love. Shocked to see Dudgeon in such a state, his girlfriend, a nurse, breaks up with him. This was my first clue that Dudgeon was not the impervious hero in an incongruous relationship that has grown common to private eye fiction.

Hired to protect one victim of a building scam when the other tenants start dying, Dudgeon finds himself in Outfit territory, but before pursuing his mobbed-up suspect, he asks permission from the suspect's superior. It turns out Dudgeon has stumbled upon a brewing Outfit mutiny, and when members of the same family can't trust each other, who can be trusted?

Sean Chercover's bio is full of varied skills, from P.I. to magician to scuba diver, and he blends many of these credibly into the novel. Because Dudgeon himself is very real from the start, his actions and reactions seem real. His sense of virtue is not some jock ethic or courtly code adopted for kicks; it was instead ingrained in him as a journalist. When things get bloody, Dudgeon seems to care more about the truth's survival than about his own. Gotta respect that.

I look forward to more.

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