My Review of the book The Detective



The Detective is by James Patrick Hunt. He has written ten books including Maitland, Maitland Under Siege, The Betrayers, and  Police and Thieves. The Detective is the first book I have read written by Hunt.  It is set in 1970s Chicago in the aftermath of one of the worst snowstorms the city has experienced in decades.  Public transportation has been shut down, uncollected garbage is piling up and cars remain entombed in snowdrifts.  Only the underground trains are working — then five people are shot and killed at one of the train stops.

The first homicide detective on the scene is David Beckman, who two months earlier was working in vice.  Unlike his old position no one cared he is Jewish but in his new position the older detectives are not fond of him.  At first he figures this case will be worked by the more experienced detectives and he maybe lucky to help. Then the more senior officers arrive, all from his new prescient, Detective Gregory, Chief of Detectives Strumbaugh and Sergeant Tom Regan, considered the best homicide detective in the prescient.     

When one of the victims is identified as a Jewish activist named Nathan Wald who advocated violence and attacks on Soviet embassies. The Lieutenant and the Chief of Detectives decide it would be best for Regan to work with Beckman to solve the murders.  Regan isn’t pleased he would rather work alone or with someone else since his regular partner, recently diagnosed with lung cancer,  is considered to not be returning to work.  Regan hates the idea of working with someone so new to homicide and he dislikes the only reason Beckman is to work with him is because the higher ups and the mayor, fighting for his political life in an election year, believe it would be good political cover to have a Jewish detective work the death of a victim himself, Jewish.  

The other victims include 25 year old Helen Futterer, a registered nurse, a nurse’s assistant named Catherine-Anne Corbett, Lionel Pearce, a cook at a North Side restaurant, and an unknown male in his fifties. At first Beckman and Regan focus their attention on Vernon May, the leader of the American Nazi Party. He has an alibi that he was in another state and it is confirmed.  Yet Regan considers this angle as does Lieutenant Gregory, the likeliest one to lead to a result, it just means May must have hired someone to do the killing but Beckman does not believe it.  The two partners are at odds yet Regan lets Beckman investigate other angles on his own even as they continue to investigate their main lead.  Later though in the book things change after Beckman finally identifies the unknown male in his fifties who was killed. His name was Lester, a former sailor with a drug habit. 
I liked the pace of his book and that eventually Regan comes around to see his new partner has a lot of potential and smarts.  While it does not lead them to become tight, an appreciation is built between them. Regan goes to bat more than once for Beckman against Gregory who is being pressured from Strumbaugh and the mayor to wrap up the investigation sooner rather than later and have it be the American Nazi Party as the culprits. 

I won’t give away who did ultimately did commit the murders and why but I can indicate it was a good thing Beckman decided to find out who the unknown victim was.  It turns out to be the first nibble that leads him and Regan to the true culprits in the deaths of Wald and four others.  I would definitely keep reading Hunt and go back and check out his previous books while I wait and see if he brings Regan and Beckman back.