Maxwell Street Blues is an entertaining first of a series by Marc Krulewitch. Set primarily in present-day Chicago, it has a noir flavor that takes the reader back about 60 years, despite the presence of meth as a key storyline component. Picture it all in black and white, the fog, the halo of the street light, the only thing missing are the fedora and the trench coat. We even have a mystery woman; no, make it two. And pay attention or you will lose track of which is which.
A brief change of setting, from Chicago to Los Angeles and suddenly the noir feeling evaporates and all is neon. Back to Chicago again; black and white, shadows and light.
The ghost of organized crime has come to call. Were it contemporary organized crime, it would be scurrilous, but it is from long ago in protagonist Landrau’s past. This struck a note for me; I have family mobsters two generations back. It’s rendered innocuous by the distance of time.
I very much enjoyed this read, which came to me free courtesy of Net Galley. There were a couple of moments that verged on the trite, and unfortunately they showed themselves in the climax. But as for me, I will cheerfully continue to read the rest of the series as it appears and becomes available. This is only the beginning, and it’s a very good one.
This prompted me to peruse about half of The Drowning Pool – 133 pages or so – to see how many similes I could count. (I’m using the Vintage Crime Black Lizard edition from May 1996). I counted thirty four and no doubt missed a few. (REVISION 11/30/14: The number is much higher. Going back over the work a second and third time I see I missed a lot in my initial sweep.) I haven’t done the legwork, but I think some of the later books might have a slightly higher ratio. That’s a lot, but in any case I would argue that many of Macdonald’s similes are so strong that they infinitely enrich the work. Not only that – they are so strong that they put many “serious” writers of fiction to shame.