Michael Kelly

Created by Michael Harvey

MICHAEL KELLY is your typical ex-cop turned P.I., a bruised but surprisingly literate bruiser working the mean and windy streets of Chicago. But it's the author's skill, a combination of what Publisher's Weekly tags as "the sardonic wit of Chandler with the gritty violence of Lehane's Kenzie and Gennaro series" that sets it apart from the hordes.

In the well-received The Chicago Way, certainly one of 2007's most heralded P.I. debuts, Kelly's old partner, now retired, asks for his help on a cold case, an old rape that's been stuck in his craw for years. But what at first seems like a simple case of a lot of legwork and re-tracing of old leads and re-questioning witnesses turns into something far more dangerous involving a cover-up, possibly corrupt cops, a convicted serial killer currently residing on Death Row and a rape victim who's decided to take the law into her own hands.

No doubt, it's an impressive debut. But while there's plenty to like in this series, there's plenty I've already liked before. At what point does hommage become simply imitation?

In the intro to The Chicago Way, we find Kelly in his shabby office, with his feet up, enjoying a beverage and mentally composing a list of the Cubs' ten greatest moments. The thing is, when Robert Parker did this sort of thing with Spenser, it seemed like a fresh spin on Chandler. Here, it seems more like a faded photocopy of Spenser. And so it goes throughout the series. Some good scenes, and some nice writing, but it never quite breaks free of its influences; never quite cuts loose; never quite finds its own voice. And yet thewre's something there, something brewing, a promise of something big to come.

So don't count the author quite out yet. He's a writer, journalist, and documentary producer, and currently the co-creator and executive producer of A&E's Cold Case Files, and he does display a definite way with a wisecrack and his depictions of Chicago capture a lot of the grit and colour of the Windy City (his Amazon page actually lists his five favourite drinking spots in Chicago).

And what is it about Chicago, anyway? First Ray Dudgeon makes his debut, and now we've got Kelly.



More Windy City eyes.

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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