Friday, June 17, 2011

The Third Rail - Michael Harvey (Audio)

I first discovered Michael Harvey and his gritty, Chicago-based crime thrillers after reading about his first novel (The Chicago Way) in Entertainment Weekly back before my blogging days.  I'd forgotten about him when Swapna mentioned that there were two more additions to the series.  I promptly listened to the second book, "The Fifth Floor" on audio, and was excited by all of the elements that contributed to make this a solid new series (The Great Chicago Fire, an honorable but tough protagonist, fast pacing, a brain-teasing mystery, and a local's guide to eating joints in my favorite city).  Onward to book three!

Synopsis:  Michael Kelly is back, this time with a love interest and a puppy, both acquired in the previous novel.  He is thrust into the center of the action, as usual, when a sniper begins picking off innocent people, and Kelly is there to witness the first fatality.  After a few more bodies pile up, Kelly actually receives a phone call implying that these crimes have everything to do with him, and a deadly CTA accident that occurred back in his youth. 

Kelly, along with a police buddy, a retired officer, an attractive FBI agent, and a computer hacker, all team up to crack this case.  Except things are never quite as cut and dried as they seem.  In fact, the case becomes a complicated spiderweb of politics, vendettas, and hidden agendas that aren't all in alignment.  The past and present collide in this worthy thriller that won't leave Michael Kelly unscathed.

My thoughts:  Everything I've come to expect in Michael Harvey's novels are back, in spades.  I am finding that I like Kelly and more and more, as I get to know him.  He is attempting to carve out a life that is as close to comfortable as possible.  But you see, he's got these pesky ghosts that won't leave him be, and they are back to haunt him and possibly strip him of his chance at normalcy.  He's growing on me, in the best way possible.  I want to hug him.

Harvey hasn't backed off his pacing either.  He hits the ground running on this one, from page one.  And he doesn't allow any slack until you've turned the last page...and throws out a pretty intense "and oh by the way, take some of THIS" cliff-hanger material that I am quite sure will be used in future installments to terrorize us.  Good stuff, this.

But I always like to highlight the elements of a crime thriller that makes it different from the rest (Lord knows there is an epidemic of forgettable ones).  In this story, the differentiation comes in the layers.  This is a thinking man's (or woman's) mind-bender that has not one problem to solve, but many.  There is no way anyone, no matter how seasoned the reader, will figure out the why's and how's before it is time.  (I could almost imagine the author cackling with glee at his cleverness.)  I kept envisioning these yummy trifle desserts.  This is the perfect visual.      


I did have a rather large irritation with the plot that got under my skin and couldn't shake.  Without getting all specific on you, I felt that there was no good reason on the timing of one set of crimes.  Why now?  Why not years ago?  How does someone sit on a grievance, all calm-like, then one day go crazy?  It seemed way too convenient.  Harvey, don't go all deus ex machina on me dude.

A word about the audio production:  As with the previous audios, this one was narrated by Stephen Hoye.  I can't say that he is my favorite, but he seems to be the go-to guy for this series, and I appreciate the consistency.  His voice seems just a little too languorous for such an edgy series, but he does grow on you, and would never deter me from listening to another.

4 out of 5 stars  


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Gosh you didn't tell me about this series! Any series that reminds you of a trifle sounds worthwhile to me!

Zibilee said...

You seem to have a knack for picking up the best thrillers, which is something that I am not very good at. It sounds like this one is a lot of fun, and that it maintains it's suspense, which is something that I really like. I am going to have to check out these books, and I thank you for the wonderful review and the mouth watering picture!

bermudaonion said...

I do like fast paced novels, but I'm not so sure about ghosts, so I'll have to think about these books.

Unknown said...

This sounds like a wonderfully clever thriller! The idea of layers of crimes, a story you have to think about & focus while reading and an intense last page cliff-hanger make this sound like a worth while read. And it makes you think about trifle? Yummy! I'll be sure to be prepared when I sit down to read. You have a knack for finding great mystery/thrillers, Sandy. Thank you!
I used to read a lot of these and then I became fussier bout quality and had trouble finding good ones.

Jenners said...

I got all distracted by the photo of the trifle!!! Yum!

I'm always on the lookout for a better-than-average thriller series that isn't so forgettable and this sounds like it fits the bill. (Plus I still need to start the Sandford Prey series you just love so much!)

Unknown said...

I haven't read a crime thriller which has lots of puzzles to solve for ages. This sounds quite good. I've made a little note of it.

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

I think I'm supposed to be reading this sometime soon, so glad you liked it!

Kathleen said...

I'm always looking for a good series and it sounds like this is one to add to my list.