The Third Rail
Review: Chicago private investigator Michael Kelly is drawn into a deadly cat-and-mouse game when an unknown killer inexplicably includes him in his plans in The Third Rail, the third mystery in this series by Michael Harvey.
Kelly is waiting for a CTA commuter train one morning when he witnesses a man quietly shoots and kill a woman then make his escape. Chasing after him, and thinking he's cornered him in an alley, the man instead comes up behind Kelly. "Ready to die, hero?", he says. Instead of killing him, he knocks him out. Kelly is soon given clues to the locations of two more killings, the victims seemingly chosen at random. The FBI thinks Kelly is a diversion and pursues other leads, but Kelly isn't so sure. When a sniper takes out drivers on Lake Shore Drive and is killed trying to escape, the authorities close the case, giving Kelly the credit. But Kelly didn't shoot the sniper and the FBI seems unwilling to believe him. Continuing to investigate on his own, he thinks the real motive behind the murders — and his involuntary inclusion in the case — may have something to do with a train crash 30 years earlier.
The Third Rail is in many ways a compelling, action-packed thriller, though it definitely could have used some editing. There are too many intersecting plot threads that, to the author's credit, logically all come together, but seem to be taken from an outline for two novellas that are stitched together here, and serve not to add suspense to the overall story but rather to detract from it. That the motive behind the killings is relatively weak and that the book concludes with some unresolved plot points don't help.
Michael Kelly is a solid, well-developed character with some hard edges, but also a softer side, which comes out not only as concern for his girlfriend when she's injured in the sniper attack, and also for an associate who was the victim of a hate crime. There's also a real sense of Chicago in the story as well, with scenes taking place in various ethnic neighborhoods and the inclusion of local politics and how they affect the investigation.
In the end, though, and in its favor, The Third Rail is a tough book to put down, always a selling point for a thriller — and in which case little details on whether the plot is too convoluted or not probably don't matter much.
Acknowledgment: Kaye Publicity provided a copy of The Third Rail for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Innocence Game
Knopf (Hardcover), May 2013
ISBN-13: 9780307961259; ISBN-10: 0307961257
Location(s) referenced in The Third Rail: Chicago, Illinois
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The Third Rail by Michael Harvey — A Michael Kelly Mystery
Publication Date: April 2010
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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