The Maxwell Street Blues: A Chicago Mystery Featuring Paul Whelan

Michael Raleigh, Author St. Martin's Press $20.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-312-11394-0
Raleigh's third mystery, following The Body in Belmont Harbor and featuring ex-cop Paul Whelan-a grungy, moral and pleasingly anachronistic shamus working the ethnically diverse, economically bruised neighborhoods of Chicago's Uptown district-is set in the mid-1980s. A drifter known by two different names has disappeared, and a well-heeled black lawyer, employed by a concerned relative, hires Whelan to find the missing man. Whelan discovers that his prey, known to have run a stall at the Maxwell Street flea market, has recently been sought by someone else, who may want him dead. The badly dressed Whelan, who has little luck with women, seems to enjoy trolling through the urban decay that Raleigh paints in vivid, largely unsentimental brushstrokes. The smells and the sounds are evocative: the greasy food that Whelan thrives on, the dank workingman's bars and the ever-present rattle of the el overhead. The novel moves a mite slowly, and the conclusion hinges on a character drawn into the narrative late in the game, but Raleigh presents a genuine good guy in the luckless Whelan and offers a knockout supporting cast. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/1994
Release date: 09/01/1994
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