Michael Harveys sizzling follow-up to The Chicago Way (A magnificent debut that should be read by allJohn Grisham; This book heralds the arrival of a major new voiceMichael Connelly) opens with a murder in contemporary Chicago and winds its way back to Mrs. OLearys cow and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
When PI Michael Kelly is hired by an ex-flame to tail her abusive husband, he expects trouble of a domestic rather than a historical nature. Life, however, is not so simple. The tail leads Kelly to an old house on Chicagos North Side. Inside it, the private investigator finds a body and, perhaps, the answer to one of Chicagos most enduring mysteries: who started the Great Chicago Fire and why. The ensuing investigation takes Kelly to places hed rather not go, specifically, City Halls fifth floor, where the mayor is feeling the heat and looking to play for keeps. Ultimately, Kelly finds himself in a world where nothing is quite what it seems, face-to-face with a killer bent on rewriting history and staring down demons from a past he never knew he had.
A fast-stepping, intricately woven narrative, rich with the history and atmosphere of a great city, The Fifth Floor is a worthy successor to Harveys critically acclaimed debut.
I pushed the slim volume of poetry across my desk and into her lap. The woman with auburn hair, perfect posture, and a broken life picked it up.
"I can't read this," she said, and lifted her head.
"That's because it's in Latin," I said. "Why don't you take off the sunglasses?"
"Why don't you translate for me?"
"Take off the glasses."
The woman slid the dark frames up and off her face. Her left eye was brown and watering. Her right was black and swollen shut. The cheekbone below it offered a study in shades of purple, blue, and yellow.
"You get the picture?" she said.
"The poem is by Catullus. First line reads Odi et amo. Translates as I hate and I love."
"And this is my life?"
"People say it's a love poem, but they're wrong. It's about abuse, about not being able to get out, even when the door is wide open and the whole world is yelling that very thing in your ear."
"I can't just leave. It's not that simple."
"It never is. Let me ask you something. How do you ...
No part of the book feels unrealistic, a bold evaluation considering the breadth of drama protagonist Michael Kelly finds himself mired in: romantic turmoil, witness of two murders (one of which he becomes the suspect of), and political controversy stretching backwards several generations and forwards into the city's future. In fact, this latter issue feels particularly relevant as Harvey pits an old-hat white politician against a less experienced, younger black one.
There is something in The Fifth Floor for every type of reader, and few should miss out on its fast-paced, unwittingly educational thrill ride. (Reviewed by Allison Stadd).
Full Review (640 words).
The Great Chicago Fire burned from about 9pm on October 8th to
early on the 10th, 1871. The source of the blaze is unknown; for many
years it was believed that the fire was caused by a cow kicking over a lantern, but more than
twenty years after the fact the reporter responsible for first publishing this
story admitted that he'd made it up.
Although the number of lives lost was relatively low considering the extent of the fire (about 200-300 people), the fire is still remembered today, partially because of the extent of the damage (about four square miles of the mainly wooden city were destroyed), but mainly as the catalyst for the city's subsequent growth into one of the most economically important and populous ...
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