Review: Chicago by David Mamet

9780062847102A tantalising setting and fantastic cast of characters can’t elevate a familiar, paper-thin plot.

I so wanted to love David Mamet’s Chicago. A Prohibition-era tale of murder and mystery, gangsters, love, friendship and betrayal? Written by the man who wrote the screenplay for The Untouchables? Uh, yes, please; and thank you. Unfortunately, though the setting is masterfully evoked and the dialogue sings, beneath all of that is a tame whodunit, which takes an age to unearth, and is too thin to garner any sort of suspense or intrigue.

Mike Hodge is a former pilot of the Great War, now a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who falls hard for a young woman named Annie Walsh, and becomes determined to find her killer after she is murdered in front of his eyes. Hodge’s story — ostensibly a revenge quest— could’ve unfolded as a cliched tale of revenge, but US playwright Mamet digs past the superficial level to deliver a story rife with social commentary on 1920’s organised crime-ridden Chicago, imbued with three-dimensional characters who display the distinctive, fast, edgy dialogue the author is renown for. But Mamet seems more determined to paint a portrait of the mob-era Windy City than he is provide an intoxicating mystery for readers to sink their teeth into and propel them forward.

Strong on atmosphere but lacking anything in suspense, Chicago serves as a vehicle for Mamet to deliver his trademark sharp and nuanced dialogue, but there’s so much talking going on that nothing much actually happens.

ISBN: 9780062847102
Format: Paperback
Imprint: HarperCollins
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Inc
Publish Date: 19-Feb-2018
Country of Publication: United States

Review: The Black Book by James Patterson & David Ellis

Black Book.pngThe Black Book is a tightly-plotted and pacy thriller, the likes of which we haven’t seen from the super-prolific James Patterson in many years. It’s a well-woven tale of corruption and duplicity, with engaging characters and an inventive structure.

The novel opens with Detective Patti Harney and her father, a high-ranking figure in the Chicago PD, arriving at a crime scene involving her twin brother, Detective Billy Harney. He’s been shot and left for dead in the bedroom of assistant state attorney Amy Lentini, who is herself DOA from a gunshot wound to the head, alongside Billy’s partner, Detective Kate Fenton. Which begs the questions: Who shot who? And why? It’s obviously connected to the raid Billy led into an apartment building he was certain was operating as a sex club to the Chicago elite, and to the missing black book that served as a record of everyone who had entered and exited the brownstone.

The narrative flashes backwards and forwards, to before and after the shooting, building in suspense and momentum, until the truth is revealed. Billy’s initial memory loss seems a tad cliched and convenient, but it works, and isn’t overplayed. And while veteran mystery readers might identify the true perpetrators of the crime early on in proceedings, there’s more than enough here to keep pages turning, and readers tuned in until the very end. The Black Book pulses with excitement, and with Billy Harney, James Patterson and David Ellis have created a hero worth following to hell and back.

ISBN: 9781780895321
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 448
Imprint: Century
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publish Date: 4-May-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom