Steve Monroe’s third novel, “Pursuit,” begins where many police procedural novels start to wind down: a high-ranking mob figure has been convinced to testify in court, unraveling the organization at the seams.
FBI agent Martin Lowell has pulled together the “get” of a lifetime: Francis Costa knows all of the major players in The Outfit, the biggest crime organization in Chicago, and has started naming names. Having put years of work into it, Lowell is confident that he has covered all the angles.
Of course if he had, “Pursuit” would not be a novel, and Monroe is a savvy enough writer to produce a character who can fall victim to a believable flaw. And to show how that one small oversight — not even a mistake, but just one of the hundreds of decisions that go into daily law enforcement — can make the best police work spiral out of control.
There are also more risks when the case is as large as this one, with so many players involved. There are a greater number of ways that things can go wrong, and people not connected to the case can become collateral damage.
Detective Wallace “Wally” Greer is one such person. Arriving at a crime scene, he’s briefed on the victims: a female police officer, found duct-taped to a chair and murdered in the basement; and a male, Phillip Costa, murdered at the dining room table.
While that investigation is in progress, he’s pulled away to look into another murder: a hit-and-run in a driveway that quickly escalates into much more. “What appeared to be a hit and run became a hit and run and a murder and now it may become a hit and run, a murder, and a kidnapping.” And Greer’s briefing is only the tip of the iceberg.
Greer and his partner, Romar Jones, work to make sense of what connects these crimes. FBI agent Lowell holds some of the answers — not all of them, but enough to break the case wide open. Except he’s not talking.
Meanwhile, more of that iceberg emerges, and soon Greer and Jones are tracking a murderer across the city, finding one victim after another.
Other characters move in and out of the story, and their places in the narrative aren’t always clear right away. A homeless man named Charlie, for instance, pops up once early in the book and then vanishes from the narrative. A bar waitress makes an appearance, seemingly for Monroe to write about how a young woman might find middle-aged Greer amusing.
In “Pursuit,” he doesn’t show all of his cards until he’s ready, and you’ll be forgiven for feeling astonished at how he slipped characters and details past you, right up until the twist at the end.
The novel is tightly plotted, and Monroe layers on the suspense so that, even though you feel pretty certain things will turn out well in the end, you’re racing alongside the detectives to find out.
“Pursuit,” by Steve Monroe (266 pages; Open Road Distribution; $13.99)