I've been trying to be a good girl and read all the books I need to do reviews of before the 25th.
Two had me excited until I read the endings. Two were wonderful. One was OK but had some first book problems and a protagonist I could barely stand.
One, despite my best efforts, I tossed. Technically great writing. Textbook writing.
But I found myself skipping paragraphs. Then pages. Then closing the book and looking at it in disgust. Then finally, literally, throwing it into the "I wouldn't read this if they paid me" pile.
One of the wonderful ones was Out of Cabrini by Dave Case. I went into to it jaded and griping to myself about the first paragraph, thinking it was overwritten. I was over-tired. And I was wrong.
The story, back story and characters in this book are well-sketched and have depth, so I kept going despite my initial crankiness. Slowly, without my even being aware, I got sucked into the story. So much so, that as I read, I lost track of time. I lost track of all the things I planned on doing that night. I looked up in a breather space between chapters and saw four hours were gone.
Let me give you some background.
For the past nineteen years, Dave Case has worked on the Chicago police force. He's a Sergeant with the Special Operations Section which is made up of officers known for getting their jobs done and cases closed. He’s also a member of the Hostage, Barricaded, Terrorist Team.
Cabrini, the setting of the story, is a level of hell above-ground inhabited by people heading to the one below at a rapid pace. This is an area of Chicago abandoned to gangs, addicts and the poor while the rest of Chicago grew up and opulant. This is an area of Chicago that scared the shit out of me when I lived there.
Case writes of Cabrini in his foreward with a straight-forward ease that is jarring when he relates the small number of officers assigned to such an 'active' area. Case tells the tale of one of those teams.
The story begins and wraps around Lonnie Huggins. Huggins is out on parole after a short stretch in prison. He's a hard man by anyone's standards and is made a harder man by his time behind bars. Literally by the extensive weight-lifting that made the time go by and internally by what he sees and hears. A perfect place to make a sociopath go even more over the edge then he was on the street. Huggins has earned some compensation for not flipping on anyone on the outside. He's due some payback.
That payback comes in the form of four keys and whatever enforcers Huggins wants to expand Mickey Cobra drug territory into Minnesota. Huggins stashes the goods in his car and is ready to fulfill a need that has pressed on him since he went to prison. He visits his girlfriends Latricia.
Latricia had grown used to a life without bruises, broken teeth and bloody noses. Huggins is the father of two of her children but he acts like its nothing to him. Overhearing a phone call, she knows just how to get him back. She makes her own phone call and sets the cops on Huggins tail.
Here's the crux of the matter.
The police impound the car with all that it carries: Huggins future and his pact with the Mickey Cobras.
Through a bit of under-handed selling, the car ends up in the hands of a secretary as a gift from a boss wanting to thank her for all she 'does' for him. Huggins wants, NEEDS, that car back. He sets two of his enforcers on it. He wants them to get it back at all costs.
Detective Stacey Macbeth wants the car. After Laticia called him, he managed to get Huggins behind bars again. But the stash he expected to find wasn't. The car was auctioned off before he even knew he had to do a more thorough search.
As Macbeth and the Mickey Cobras each race to get to the car first, both following clues that leading them from one person to the next, bodies start piling up. Fast.
Somehow, Dave Case wrote a book that is not 'my kind of book' and made it my kind of book. He has up to five story arcs, all paralled, all tight and none of them loosing sight of the others. My muscles actually tensed up as Huggins enforcers get closer to the car mere steps before Macbeth.
And Macbeth himself was a revelation. I've read the smart-ass detectives that have seen it all. I've read the hard-boiled silent types who always get their man. Macbeth is one of the most human leads I've read in crime fiction. He won me over. Not by charm, or smarting off to his superiors or his drive for some vague idea of justice. But as a tenacious man that wants to get the job done. As a man of the streets who understands who he's going after. As a man whose brain and body can't rest until he's solved the puzzle.
This book also has one of the funniest and freshest opening chapters I've read since Sean Doolittle's Dirt*.
I managed to scrounge up one measily link on Case and his writing. It is brought to you by our friends at Hardluck Stories. It is Cases's short story, Cell Damage.
Out of Cabrini is due out in April of this year. Remember it. I'll be doing a full write-up for CrimeSpree and hope to spread the word on Dave Case, a man without a website but with a damn good book under his belt.
*One of my favorite books of all time and all genres.