As a kid, one of my favorite Chicago things was going to the Museum of Science and Industry and visiting the coal mine exhibit. I don’t know how far down the thing actually went – just to the basement I guess, but they’d ginned it up so you had this sense of being on an express elevator to hell. And that’s the sense you get from the very first page of The Third Rail, Michael Harvey’s third installment in his Michael Kelly series – you’re headed somewhere dark and dangerous, you’re headed there fast, and, if you get out alive, you’re going to carry some of this around inside you for the rest of your life.
As always, the Chicago sense of place in Havery’s work is seamless and pitch perfect. This isn’t the Navy-Pier-and-Wrigley-Field wallpaper thrown up as a backdrop in a lot of bad Chicago fiction. This is run-down L-Stops, public housing, bungalows and back alleys—the perfect settings for The Third Rail’s story of personal tragedies driven by the city’s almost careless culture of corruption, greed and violence.
If you haven’t read Harvey yet, you’re missing, in Michael Kelly, a protagonist worth following – a classics scholar turned cop turned PI. Unlike many PIs in the genre, Kelly isn’t a wisecracking machine. He doesn’t have the detachment from events necessary to allow the gallows humor and one-liners. He is not amused. He is, however, relentless.
The story centers around an L-train crash that ties Kelly’s past, the city’s past and a madman’s past together (a crash that Chicago readers of a certain age will surely recognize). That’s where the story starts, but Harvey continually builds the tension, adding in Feds, mad gunmen and terrorism threats, all the while continuing the graduate-level education on Chicago’s rotted corridors of power – in politics, in religion and in business – that he stated in his first two novels, The Chicago Way and The Fifth Floor.
If you’re already a Harvey fan, then The Third Rail is all that you’ve come to expect and more. If you haven’t read Harvey yet, then this is a perfect introduction to Michael Harvey’s Chicago and to a new and compelling series.
Want to hear the author thinks about writing, Chicago, politics and more? An interview with Michael Harvey follows.
Michael Harvey Interview