cover image Little Altar Boy

Little Altar Boy

John Guzlowski. Kasva, $14.95 trade paper (322p) ISBN 978-1-948403-15-3

Set in 1967, Guzlowski’s downbeat sequel to 2018’s Suitcase Charlie finds hard-bitten, morally upright Chicago police detective Hank Purcell looking into some grim crimes. At the urging of Sister Mary Philomena, Hank and his quirky, iconoclastic partner, Marvin Bondarowicz, both WWII vets with memories of terrible things that men can do, confront a pedophile priest at her church, but the man denies the allegations. Days later, Sister Mary is found dead in the church basement, stabbed three dozen times. The church stonewalls the investigation. Meanwhile, Hank’s 19-year-old daughter, Margaret, goes missing. His inquiries make it clear she’s fallen in with a bad, druggy crowd. When an 11-year-old altar boy is discovered hanged in a closet, the bleakness of the world really hits Hank and Marvin, who resort to their fists and the bottle while failing to get much traction with either of the murder cases. The resolution of the crimes—including Margaret’s disappearance—brings little satisfaction to either the dogged detectives or the reader. This is strictly for those who prefer the darkest of hard-boiled fiction. (May)