Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Monday, March 31, 2008

At the City's Edge (hardcover, $24.95), by Marcus Sakey

This is the second book I’ve read in a week that takes place in Chicago. It’s a good thing the authors have such different takes on the city. Sean Chercover’s book had to do with organized crime and was written in a hard-boiled style. Marcus Sakey’s is the TV series "The Wire" moves to Chicago. It’s an intense, tough-talking, action-packed look at gangs and possible corruption in public figures.

Jason Palmer has returned home after being discharged from the military. He has not emotionally dealt with what happened to him in Iraq, an experience that haunts and paralyzes him. When Jason must take care of his young nephew while dodging bad guys who are inexplicably out to harm the child, he has an opportunity to see if he can shake off his self-flagellation and rise to the occasion. He is assisted by a Chicago detective who, in standard fictionland fashion, is also a beautiful woman. We meet a series of interesting characters along the way, most notably Washington Matthews, a black man who mentored the white Jason when he was young and who now tries to channel the violence in Jason without compromising his own ethics.

Sakey writes about Chicago and its gang areas with authenticity. I was intrigued by his main characters, people who accept their responsibilities and struggle to make their world right again. At the City’s Edge is plot-driven and Sakey’s writing is more than competent, but I do wish he had leaned less on the “aha” moments (“I know how to beat them,” “an idea hit Jason square and center,” “I know what we need to do,” “and then the idea hit”) and tried for a smoother transition, a technique which he shows himself capable of doing well elsewhere in his book. All in all, an energetic novel and one that is capable of holding your attention.

Sakey’s first novel, The Blade Itself, won many accolades. At the City’s Edge is a standalone work, however, so for those of you who like to read your series books in order, it’s not necessary to have read the first one.


  1. I really enjoyed this book. I definitely felt like Marcus grew as a writer from his superb debut last year, and I feel like he will only get better.

  2. Bill Cameron is the well-regarded author of Lost Dog.