The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

August 16, 2010

REVIEW: CALUMET CITY by Charlie Newton

I must be living right. Everything I've picked up to read lately has been high caliber, the kind of books I just want everyone around me to enjoy as much as I. I know this streak cannot last but while it's still red hot, let me tell you about CALUMET CITY, by Charlie Newton.

Chicago's most decorated cop is Patti Black. No one doubts her courage but then, no one knows the nightmarish past she endured to get as far as she has. Nobody can get close to her, she has too much to hide. Then two men die in a drug bust she's a part of, but the white sections of the city are paying more attention to the attempted assassination of the mayor. The body of a woman is found inside the walls of a building, and there is evidence that the woman was buried alive. And this woman had known Patti's secret nightmares, had helped create them. The building is owned by the mayor's wife; the current police chief had once lived in that building. Suddenly Officer Black finds her past catching up with her present in a hot hurry. She's not ready for that. But she is ready to kill to protect her secrets.

CALUMET CITY is one of those novels that gets tagged with that laudatory but unattractive phrase, "adrenaline fueled." I'd rather say the pace is red hot, intense, and unflagging. The story takes place over the course of a week and trust me, by day five the reader is having trouble keeping up with Patti. Her pain is a constant, her fear nearly so, and the author heaps action and twist upon pressure and conflict. It's exhausting, yes. And one hell of a dark and action-packed reading ride.

There is more than enough action to keep the average thriller fan happy, while the story is wonderfully complex, weaving together politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, beat cops, common criminals, monsters, and everyday people. Everyone has an agenda, an axe to grind, secrets to protect and not all of them dirty. No one is trustworthy; the strong are weak and the weak are deadly. The author wisely does not try to tie up every possible loose end into a pretty package of all's-well-that-ends-well, and the reader is left to draw his own conclusions about some characters and motives and outcomes. The reader may not agree with some of Patti's choices, at least those of us fortunate enough not to have endured a similar life, but her decisions always spring from what she had been, who she has become, and what she holds dearest. I hope Charlie Newton brings Patti Black back again. I'll be cheering for her.


  1. This sounds like a great one, Naomi. I see Audible has produced a audio edition, so it looks like I'll be taking it in. BTW, do you notice a certain similarity with its book cover and the audiobook I'm currently reading? Hmm... Thanks for this.

  2. Oh, I sure do! You should send these to Jeff Pierce at The Rap Sheet for his collection of duplicate cover artwork. Grrr...

    Calumet City should be a lot of fun in audio.