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Thursday, July 21, 2016 12:09 am

Conflicts of interest

Chicago writer Michael Harvey takes a quick trip to Boston for his latest mystery

Brighton, by Michael Harvey. Ecco Publishing, 355 pages, ISBN: 9780062442970.
“If my bones are Chicago, my blood is Boston, and specifically Brighton,” observes Michael Harvey in the acknowledgements to his most recent mystery novel. Harvey is a multitalented journalist who has received multiple Emmy awards for news, primetime Emmy and Academy Award nominations and has written six previous novels, all set in his present hometown of Chicago. Harvey’s Chicago-themed novels have been enjoyable mysteries that were topical and employed characters based upon real-life figures and events in Illinois, capturing the spirit of the city.

In his latest novel, Brighton, Harvey obviously had a story he wished to tell that is set in the city of his birth, a story populated by intriguing characters familiar to Harvey from his Boston experience. At one level the Boston setting makes little difference in Harvey’s presentation. The characters speak reverently about their beloved Sox rather than the Cubs and the bars serve different brands of beer and whiskey, but the vibrant dialogue, plot twists and visceral atmosphere that are the hallmarks of a Michael Harvey mystery are all present.

Fifteen-year-old Kevin Pearce is the pride of the Brighton community and appears headed for a promising future. He is an honor student and baseball star. In his baseball-crazy community he is awarded the honor of local adulation. But those same adoring friends and neighbors are also part of a city torn by racial hatred and strife. When Kevin’s grandmother is murdered in a home break-in, Kevin determines to take his own revenge on the burglar. Kevin is not alone in his vengeance and other participants do their best to make certain that he is protected and sent away from Boston so as not to face criminal consequences.

Twenty-seven years later, Kevin Pearce has achieved what many had predicted for him as a teenager. He has just learned that he will receive a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism for his work at the Boston Globe. Among those offering congratulations to Pearce are his girlfriend, Lisa Mignot, who is a top prosecutor in the Suffolk County district attorney’s office. Their relationship has some strict rules requiring that the journalist and prosecutor do not invade the ethical boundaries of their respective professions. But an investigation percolating in Lisa’s office threatens to breach that unofficial arrangement.

Kevin’s Pulitzer was based upon his coverage of a Boston man wrongfully convicted for murder. James Harper was convicted of the murder of Rosie Tallent and sentenced to prison. Kevin’s investigation established Harper’s innocence, but his reporting came too late to help Harper, who had died in prison. Now Mignot informs Kevin that the gun allegedly used in the shooting where Harper was wrongfully convicted was the same gun used to kill Kevin’s grandmother years earlier.

It also was used in the recent murder of an undercover police officer.  The dilemma for Kevin is obvious and disquieting. There are two crimes Kevin hopes to solve, but at the same time there are people close to him that he feels obligated to protect.

Harvey leads readers through a taut and intriguing investigation. His characters, whether evil or sympathetic, are vividly portrayed. The plot moves with interesting twists and turns. Brighton has the plot twists of classic mysteries and readers will find themselves holding on until the conclusion of this gritty crime novel.  Michael Harvey’s trip back to Boston was delightful and this reader hopes he will be returning soon to Chicago to continue his mystery efforts.

Stuart Shiffman, a frequent contributor to the book section of Illinois Times, served 23 years as an Illinois trial judge before his retirement.


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