cover image Pigeon Pie

Pigeon Pie

Robert Campbell, R. Wright Campbell. Mysterious Press, $22 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-665-3

It is hard to imagine a more perfect rendering of people and place than Campbell delivers in the voice of his unlikely hero, Chicago sewer inspector and Democratic committeeman Jimmy Flannery. In this 11th outing (after The Lion's Share, 1996), Jimmy describes his elevation to alderman-in-waiting. He's honored but worried, and with good reason. Jimmy helped send Leo Lundatos, a long-serving congressman, to the federal pokey, but the still-powerful Lundatos is unaccountably ready to support him. More troubling, Jimmy (whose wife, Mary, is pregnant with their second child) feels stirrings for Leo's ambitious wife, Maggie, who has a power base and mysterious plans of her own. Meanwhile, a teacher friend asks Jimmy's help in fighting off a book-banning activist against whom the ward leader has faced off before. The politics turn poisonous when a bullet narrowly misses Jimmy and kills his campaign aide, a transsexual former cop named Mabel (nee Milton) Halstead. Jimmy struggles to identify the killer and run a campaign without jeopardizing political and personal alliances. It takes a coldhearted reader not to be charmed by this Irish pol. In this first-person narration, Jimmy mangles the language just right; it's no wonder his night-school English teacher loves him. (Apr.)