Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Detective Harriet Foster #2
Published by Thomas & Mercer on December 5, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, Better World Books
In the second book in the Detective Harriet Foster thriller series, author Tracy Clark weaves a twisted journey into the underbelly of Chicago as Harriet and her team work to unmask a serial killer stalking the city’s aldermen.
The Chicago PD is on high alert when two city aldermen are found dead: one by apparent suicide, one brutally stabbed in his office, and both with thirty dimes left on their bodies—a betrayer’s payment. With no other clues, the question is, Who else has a debt to pay?
Detective Harriet Foster is on the case before the killer can strike again. But even with the help of her partner, Detective Vera Li, and the rest of their team, Harriet has little to go on and a lot at risk. There’s no telling who the killer’s next target is or how many will come next.
To stop another murder, Harriet and her officers will have to examine what the victims had going on behind the scenes to determine who could be tangled up in this web of betrayal…and who could be out for revenge
When we first catch back up with Detective Harriet Foster, she’s in the midst of a doomed attempt to get closure for the unclosable. She’s attending the sentencing hearing of the young man who murdered her son. As much as everyone in her family wants her to – not so much put it behind her because that’s impossible – start living in the present and the future she has rather than the past she can’t change and can’t return to.
But when we first met Harri back in Hide, she was also still grieving the suicide of her police partner Glynnis Thompson. While closure for that loss may still be elusive, Harri does get at least a reason for that seemingly unreasonable act. A reason that is clearly going to dog her footsteps for months if not years to come.
What makes this second entry in the series so compelling is its deep dive into the seemingly baked in ways and means that the sausage of Chicago city government gets made. And seemingly always has been.
That a former alderman, convicted of corruption, gets out of prison after serving her time may be newsworthy as it happens – just as her trial and conviction three years before was – but it isn’t at all unusual. It’s just part of the way that ‘business’ in the City of Chicago has always been done.
Howsomever, that the aldermen who should have gone to prison with her – but whose names seem to have been barely whispered during the course of the investigation – start dropping like flies the minute she gets out is not only newsworthy, it’s juicy news at that. The kind of news that he newsies are all over like a bad rash.
Because that former alderman, Marin Shaw, should be the prime suspect for the killings. And in some people’s minds, she is. But not to Detective Foster and her current partner Vera Li. Because down in the dirt of Chicago politics and power, there are simply too many motives for killing an alderman or two, or even three.
Especially when one of the victims is the kingpin of a whole network of dirty City dealing not done remotely dirt cheap.
To the two experienced cops, it looks like a frame that someone is trying to make former alderman Marin Shaw fit into. But it doesn’t, quite, because the motives are as elusive as the killer has been, and they’ve been looking in the wrong direction all along. As they were intended to.
Escape Rating A++: I finished this at 3 in the morning because I simply could not put it down. I mean, I tried, but I just couldn’t let this one go until the end. An ending like black coffee, tasty but bitter, with a solid kick at the finish.
In other words, there are plenty of reasons why this book has ended up on so many “Best of the Year” lists – and quite possibly will mine as well. It is even better than the first book in the series, Hide, and provides an even more in-depth look at a damaged person doing her best in a broken system to make each day count for others – even if she can’t make them count for herself.
Detective Harriet Foster is compelling in her brokenness. I want to say that she’s strong in the broken places, but she’s not there yet. She’s putting one foot forward, one day at a time, and giving what of herself she feels she has left to her job of saving somebody else’s son because she couldn’t save her own.
She isn’t ready to put her own life together, but she’s reaching for the point where she can at least put her work life back together, when someone tries to pull that rug out from under her. The questions that get raised about her partner’s death do not get resolved in this entry in the series, leading to a fascinating ending of a cliffhanger that isn’t a cliffhanger. This case is resolved, Harri’s problems are just beginning.
At the heart of this one, however, is the mystery. And not so much for the mystery itself, as much as I enjoyed getting caught up in the clues and in Harri and Li’s investigation. But it’s what she’s investigating that adds the compulsive factor. Because that investigation creates a portrait of Chicago politics that manages to read both as the corruption the way that popular imagination has painted it AND as the way that the city’s newspapers cover it, all at the same time. And that feels entirely too true to life.
What gave the case a very nice twist at the end was that, as much fun as the dive into the political muck was to read, the motive for the murders wasn’t part of that muck. Not that it wasn’t mucky and murky in its own right, but it wasn’t the usual muck when it comes to Chicago politics which made for a more satisfying resolution – at least for this reader.
Anytime that a story keeps me up until 3 in the morning, I want more than I have. Not more of this particular book, because it was the right story at the right length at the right time, but more like this or more of these characters or both. Definitely both.
If you have that same impulse after you finish Hide and Fall (and do read both because the series just keeps getting awesomer as it goes), if Detective Harriet Foster, with her damage and her dangerous investigations into the broken places and people of Chicago grab your attention, you might also want to check out Inspector Anjelica Henley and the dark and dirty parts of her London, because the two are very much sisters under the skin with their respective city’s grit under their nails. The first book in the Henley series by Nadine Matheson is The Jigsaw Man.
As I’ve already read the Henley series, I’ll have to look for something else to tide me over until the next book in one or the other appears. (That’s The Kill List for Anjelica Henley in September and Echo for Harriet Foster next December. Tracy Clark has another Chicago-set mystery series, the Cass Raines series, that begins with Broken Places. I always enjoy a trip to Chicago, so I’ll be giving that a look while I wait for Harriet Foster’s next investigation.