Overall, a pretty good crime read. Three graduate students working on the cold case kidnap/killing of a young boy with the objective of clearing the name of the convicted killer. Their investigation encounters obstacles from the get-go, including what seems like interference from Chicago police. As the procedural moves forward, additional killings take place and the three students themselves become the targets of violence.
The book has a decent, if slightly over-the-top, plot and strong characters. The dialogues between the three principals are well-written and credible and move the story along at a good pace. The novel's ending comes as a surprise--rather good from my perspective, but maybe not to every reader's liking. Bottom line, Michael Harvey is a good writer who stretches credibility a bit in this work, but stays just inside the boundaries of acceptability.
on 8 October 2013
Michael Harvey has portrayed the city of Chicago and its environs in past novels to wonderful effect, and in his newest novel, a standalone, he does so once again. The tale is told from the 1st person p.o.v. of Ian Joyce, one of three graduate students chosen for a highly sought-after spot in a seminar at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism (considered one of the best in the world), run by a three-time Pulitzer-winning journalist, Judy Zombrowski. ("You can call me Z.") The seminar, which she has been teaching for more than a decade, is called The Innocence Project, apparently based on an actual program in Chicago and a similar one in New York City, whose purpose is "to work on wrongful convictions . . . [of] men who've been sentenced to death for crimes they didn't commit."
The three students chosen are Ian, Jake Havens (a brilliant law-school grad) and Sarah Gold, a beautiful girl who had gone through under-grad school with Ian. The case they choose (well, actually, it's Jake who chooses it) is that of a man convicted of killing a ten-year-old boy in Chicago 14 years earlier who, almost parenthetically, had been killed in prison 14 months after being incarcerated. As Jake says, defending his choice, "Does the fact that he's dead make him any less innocent?" The young men are discovered to be more complex than they first appear, with their own secrets. But the three turn out to be a great team, each bringing his or her own compulsions to the task, with intriguing results. Their search into old murders morphs into the discovery of others not nearly as old. As the 3 J-School students pursue their investigation, trouble seems to follow them, including and not limited to break-ins and arson.
The credo that Z has instilled in them is that above all, their job is to find out the truth. Along the way, they discover several other things, among them: "`Playing a hunch' is what journalists in the movies called it. Felt like fishing without a pole;" "In a splintered moment, we knew more about each other than we could in a million lifetimes" and, when corruption on several different levels is found, "This is Chicago we're talking about. Cops, detectives, prosecutors. I know you're a smart young man . . . "
Suspenseful from the start, the last third of the novel becomes much more than "just" a page-turner, when I found that I could not put the book down until the final page, with an ending this reader absolutely did not see coming. It is highly recommended.
As a bookseller, I regularly recommend Michael Harvey to those needing an alternative to Michael Connelly and his ilk, as Harvey so consistently produces incredibly readable Chicago-set police procedurals. The Innocence Game is slightly different than his usual fare, straying into the legal territory of John Grisham and Mark Gimenez in this highly enjoyable stand alone.
With the interplay between the three central characters- a small group of intuitive and ambitious legal students, tasked with finding the real perpetrator of an abduction and killing of a young boy- Harvey immediately envelops the reader in their backgrounds and defining characteristics. As the book progresses, we discover their particular strengths and weaknesses, and certainly in the case of Ian, their back stories are discovered to be intrinsically bound up with their central ambitions in training to enter the legal world. As a further series of killings occur, all three protagonists are put in danger as their investigations bring them into the direct sight of a killer, and causes them to question the actions of those in whom they have a belief and trust. Harvey carefully illustrates the consequences of these actions on the psyches of Ian, Sarah and Jake, and plays with the central dynamics of the relationships between them, as they find themselves inextricably embroiled in physical danger. For my money, Sarah is perhaps the weak link in the characterisation, but only because the two male characters have a much more intriguing back story and unusual set of circumstances that have paved their way in life, but on the whole their interactions work well within the central plot. The plotting cannot be faulted as Harvey closely controls the gradual revealing of key information and there are enough twists and turns along the way to keep those pages a-turning, with one reveal in particular catching me completely offguard. An accomplished thriller from a writer who could be a great new discovery if you've not had the pleasure of reading him before...
on 4 April 2016
I was intrigued by the title and seeing that john Grisham, had recommended that the book should be read I bought it, and was not disappointed. The book is a page turner. As three students start investigating and old murder, so many skeletons are being unearth, and people with power will go to any length to keep them hidden. I enjoyed the way the author took the reader on a tour of modern day Chicago, even enjoying the 4th July Parade.
The ending was a little to far fetched for me, however I still given this book 5 stars and I also like J Grisham recommend it.