Wednesday, September 9, 2009

At the City's Edge by Marcus Sakey

Jason Palmer, recently discharged from the Army, returns to his native Chicago as a man in search of himself. He spends most of his time running, drinking, and sleeping around. When his brother, Michael, is murdered, Jason takes it upon himself to find the killers and look after Michael’s 8-year-old son. As you can expect, Jason finds himself pulled into a world of gang warfare, political corruption, and corporate greed.

After reading his first book, I became a big fan of Marcus Sakey. The quality of his writing is present in his second novel, but I can’t help but feel a little bit of a letdown. The plot hums along just fine and there are a fair number of twists and big reveals. For the most part, the characters are mainly stock characters and never rise above that. Disgruntled army vet? Check. Sexy ethnic love interest? Check. Crooked cops? Check. Wire-inspired gangbangers? Check. In The Blade Itself, the characters started off as recognizable types, but Sakey was able to breathe extra life into them and make them real people. Of course, he does a phenomenal job painting a portrait of the city of Chicago. Maybe since I visited there this year, the locales really jumped off the page.

Still, in the hands of a capable author like him, Sakey’s prose tends to downplay some of the negatives. Not as good as his debut, but an entertaining read nonetheless.

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