Sunday, November 6, 2016

Review of "The Last Dark Place" by Stuart M. Kaminsky

Detective Abe Lieberman ('the rabbi') and his partner Detective Bill Hanrahan ('Father Murphy'), veteran cops of the Chicago Police Department, are friends as well as partners. As this 8th book in the series opens, though, they're working on different investigations - several of which unfold during the course of the story.

At the start of the book Lieberman is in Yuma, Arizona, tasked with bringing killer-for-hire Connie Glover back to Chicago. As Lieberman and a local cop are escorting Connie through the airport, an elderly janitor steps up and shoots the hitman. The janitor, shot by the Yuma cop and hospitalized, admits to accepting money to kill Connie. Trying to find out who ordered the hit, Lieberman finds clues that lead him back to Chicago.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, a gang of young roughnecks has been on a tear - beating, raping, and killing. One of their rape victims is the wife of Detective Sergeant Hugh Morton, a respected black police officer. Hanrahan, and his temporary partner Detective Bill O'Neil - an irritating big-mouthed racist - need to catch the hooligans before Morton exercises frontier justice and ruins his career.

At the same time, a mob war threatens to break out between local Chinese and Puerto Rican gangs in Chicago. Tensions were already high between the gangs and - after a Chinese thug is thrown out a window - things threaten to go ballistic. Lieberman, who has an odd friendship with the leader of the Latin gang, tries to broker a truce with the help of a Chinese 'godfather'.

And in the category 'inexplicable nutcases', Wayne Czerbiak - a seemingly mild-mannered sign painter - decides to shoot country singer Lee Cole Carter. Czerbiak announces his plans quite freely, but people think he's talking about photography....until they don't.

Lieberman and Hanrahan also have a lot going on their personal lives. Lieberman and his wife Bess are the guardians of their grandkids and are planning (and paying for) their grandson's upcoming bar mitzvah. This requires a good deal of preparation as well as some tense interaction with their daughter LIsa - a troubled gal who's flown in for the event.

And Hanrahan and his new Chinese wife, Iris Chen Hanrahan, are expecting a baby. This disturbs Iris's cousin, a member of the Falun Gong, who wants to prevent the birth of this ethnically mixed ('mongrel') baby. The determined Falun Gong member starts his campaign with harassing phone calls to Iris, which doesn't sit well with a lot of people.

Lieberman and Hanrahan, as always, spend some time in Maish Lieberman's delicatessen, eating delicious food and kibitzing with the 'alter cockers', a group of old men who have an opinion about everything.

All in all, a very pleasant visit with Lieberman and Hanrahan, who go about their business skillfully and without undue drama. I enjoyed the book and recommend it to mystery fans. You can't go wrong with Stuart Kaminsky, a respected author of several acclaimed detective series.

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