Shall We Not Revenge
by D. M. Pirrone
Publisher: Allium Press of Chicago
Page Count: 346
Release Date: July 16, 2014
How got: personal library; bought via Amazon
First attention getter: synopsis
In the harsh early winter months of 1872, while Chicago is still smoldering from the Great Fire, Irish Catholic detective Frank Hanley is assigned the case of a murdered Orthodox Jewish rabbi. His investigation proves difficult when the neighborhood’s Yiddish-speaking residents, wary of outsiders, are reluctant to talk. But when the rabbi’s headstrong daughter, Rivka, unexpectedly offers to help Hanley find her father’s killer, the detective receives much more than the break he was looking for.
Their pursuit of the truth draws Rivka and Hanley closer together and leads them to a relief organization run by the city’s wealthy movers and shakers. Along the way, they uncover a web of political corruption, crooked cops, and well-buried ties to two notorious Irish thugs from Hanley’s checkered past. Even after he is kicked off the case, stripped of his badge, and thrown in jail, Hanley refuses to quit. With a personal vendetta to settle for an innocent life lost, he is determined to expose a complicated criminal scheme, not only for his own sake, but for Rivka’s as well.
Star Rating - 4
My re-visit to the historical mystery genre with this book was a great re-introduction. I don’t read the genre often, but love it when I get such a juicy work to enjoy. This book pleases on most fronts, only falling slightly in a few areas. It’s still good enough to make me want to read more historical mysteries!
The author cuts no corners in setting her scene and exploring intriguing aspects of her historical setting and events. Devastated and corrupt Chicago comes to vivid life as it tries to re-build after the Great Fire of 1871. Charred remains, rubble, and the destitute situation of many Chicago inhabitants makes the reader viscerally live the devastation and horror.
I also loved how the author explored the complex system of police work and the aid given to the poor in the era. Seeing how personal interests and politics played such a big part in both was fascinating to explore, if not completely unexpected. After all, this is the beginning era of organized crime and Tammany Hall-like politics.
I loved the characters through which the story is explored. Frank and Rivka are strong leads, both somewhat embittered from life’s tragedies and pain. They’re both trying to find their places in the world, Frank as a police detective in a system rife with favoritism and corruption and Rivka as a woman who yearns for something more than a standard woman’s place in that world.
I do wish, though, that more time might have been spent on Rivka’s side of the tale. She wasn’t abandoned nor ignored in any fashion. Yet, far more page time and emphasis was placed on Frank and his police work. While this may make sense in the sense that this is a mystery/police procedural story, Rivka, I felt, could have added far more to the investigative side than she did. I missed seeing her more in this regard.
As far as the mystery itself goes, I felt the overall story was strong. I really enjoyed that the investigative portion wasn’t all “he said/she said” as I’ve seen in other historical mysteries before. It probably helped that the story took place in a time where physical evidence was getting more weight in police work. We got to explore how a paper trail, stray hairs, the physical presence of blood, and boot prints all played a part in convicting the right parties of any crimes.
I do have to say though that I wasn’t surprised at the responsible parties. From the weight that was placed on Frank’s past and those involved with that, I could see where the finger was pointed very early on. There wasn’t that much surprise or twist in the murderer’s identity. That’s not always a bad thing, but I felt somewhat disappointed this time.
A strong story with great historical details and characters, this mystery pleases on many fronts. I liked the attention to detail and evident time that the author put into this work. While not perfect, it’s still an excellent example of the historical mystery genre. I’ve learned that the sequel to this book is actually due out in only a few weeks. So I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in this series and getting the chance to run the streets of 1870s Chicago with Rivka and Frank again.