Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Review of Michael Harvey's The Third Rail

I was excited when Dana at Kaye Publicity offered me the chance to review the latest detective thriller by Michael Harvey.  The Third Rail is the third in the detective series set in Chicago with former detective turned PI, Michael Kelly.

The Third Rail

The Third Rail by Michael Harvey
The blurb:
A woman is shot as she waits for her train to work.  An hour later, a second woman is gunned down as she rides an elevated train through the Loop.  Two hours after that, a church becomes the target of a chemical weapons attack.  The city of Chicago is under siege and Michael Kelly, cynical cop turned private investigator, just happens to be on the scene when all hell breaks loose.

Kelly is initially drawn into the case by the killers themselves, then tasked by Chicago's mayor and the FBI to hunt down the bad guys and, all things being equal, put a bullet in them.  Kelly, of course, has other ideas.  As he gets closer to the truth, his instincts lead him to a retired cop, a shady train company, and an unnerving link to his own past.  Meanwhile, Kelly's girlfriend, Rachel Swenson, becomes a pawn in a much larger game, while a weapon that could kill millions ticks away quietly in the very belly of the city.

The Third Rail is stylish, sophisticated, edge-of-your-seat suspense from a new modern master.

The Third Rail opens on Chicago's "L" just as someone is killed by a sniper.  It soon becomes clear that the victim was selected almost at random, just as a means to capture Michael Kelly's attention. 

The killer has a hidden message that he expects Kelly to decipher.  Kelly's off the police force but has been called in to assist.  As it becomes increasingly clear that the Mayor, the FBI and the police would like to hunt down and stop -- preferably with lethal force -- this unknown killer, Kelly starts noticing how the killer is leaving clues that tie to a train crash from his childhood.

Michael Kelly is a private investigator that must have been an excellent detective - his instincts are spot on.   He's still well regarded by the Mayor and the top brass at the Chicago Police Department, but the reason for his going on his own is never hinted at.   I'm guessing that he was overzealous in his pursuit of a criminal and though his actions were privately applauded, he was publicly discharged and reprimanded? He's trusted and given much discretion to bring the current "terror" to justice.   Using his sharp powers of observation and deduction, Kelly pieces together the message behind these acts of violence.  As he moves to stop the next attack, Kelly suffers a personal loss of his own.

This is my first Michael Harvey novel, it's made me want to read his two earlier novels in the Michael Kelly series, The Chicago Way and The Fifth Floor,  to get a better understanding of his detective hero.

Action-packed and carefully crafted, The Third Rail is a fast-paced and satisfying detective thriller!

ISBN-10: 0307272508 - Hardcover $24.95
Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (April 20, 2010), 304 pages.
Review copy provided by Kaye Publicity and the publisher.

About the Author:
Michael Harvey is the author of The Chicago Way and The Fifth Floor, and is also a journalist and documentary producer.  His work has won numerous national and international awards, including multiple Emmy nominations and an Academy Award nomination.  He holds a law degree from Duke University, a master's degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, and a bachelor's degree in classical languages from Holy Cross College.  Find out more about him at

Thank you so much to Dana and Kaye Publicity for this review opportunity!

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