“The Fifth Floor,” the second book starring private investigator Michael Kelly by author Michael Harvey, is a winner, just like Harvey’s previous “The Chicago Way.” Both are part of the Black Lizard imprint from Vintage Books.
The title refers to the floor of the Chicago city building which houses the mayor’s office. The plot starts with a spousal abuse case, and morphs into a murder mystery, and then a historical mystery going back to the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. Plenty of city political intrigue.
Plus a Barack Obama kind of character–a young charismatic black named Mitchell Kincaid who comes out of nowhere to run for mayor. But the incumbent mayor would get nasty, in true Chicago fashion, before giving up his job. One character, about Kincaid’s chances, says, “Please. Barak Obama is one thing. He was only running for president. Kincaid wants to be mayor.”
Harvey keeps things moving. There are no wasted, gratuitous scenes. Every scene, and every character, matters to the plot. He keeps several little subplots going, all inter-related, and wraps up every single one of them.
Harvey also plays fair, avoiding the tendency (like Chandler and others) to let the protagonist unravel the mystery in a nice speech at the end, using clues not previously available to the reader. I always hate that; it’s one of my pet peeves. Harvey actually lapsed into that a little bit, during the last 100 pages, but he extracted himself from it and I don’t hold it against him.
“The Fifth Floor” is the 98th book of the Black Lizard imprint that I’ve read. I’ve already decided that Henning Mankell’s “The Pyramid,” just released in the US last fall (it showed up under the Christmas tree–thanks, Pam) will be the 100th. But right now, I need to go pick out Number 99.Leave a comment