Saturday, March 16, 2013

Penance by Dan O'Shea - Book Review

Chicago Detective John Lynch catches the call to investigate the murder of a woman who was shot as she left church immediately after Confession. As he pulls at the threads of the murder, he begins to discover connections to the murder of his own detective father in the midst of a race riot in 1971.  A rogue sniper from a black ops unit is on the loose, and his off-the-books unit is determined to take him out.  As more old political names become involved, the events of 1971 continue to tie into the current murder.  Conspiracies and old Chicago politics embroil Lynch as the case becomes more and more personal.

For my money, Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series is the peak of police/detective fiction.  It is the series that all others should be compared to.  With John Lynch and Penance, Dan O'Shea has produced a worthy competitor. The writing is smooth, never bogging down in exposition, but constantly moving forward, hitting the climax was breathtaking speed.  The characters are well-drawn, particularly John Lynch and Paddy Wang, a seemingly immortal figure in the Chinese community and the criminal underworld.  O'Shea deftly balances the shifting perspectives, jumping back to 1971 to add depth and meaning to the current case; focusing on Colonel Weaver and his team as they attempt to track down the sniper; and following Lynch in his personal life and as he pursues the investigation. 

On of the best things about Penance, other than Lynch, is how the city of Chicago is a character in itself.  Slightly fictionalizing the corrupt political history, O'Shea is able to make his story seem like a actual episode from Chicago's history.  He also does a great job of painting a visual picture, dropping actual locations and architecture to create a vivid portrait of the city.

I highly recommend this book, particularly to those who enjoy Connelly and are looking for something to tide them over until their next Harry Bosch fix.  Readers will also be happy to know that O'Shea has written several short stories involving the characters from Penance, which are accessible from his website.

I received a review copy of Penance from Netgalley and Exhibit A books in exchange for an honest review.

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