The newest book by Oak Park resident and Tribune writer, David Heinzmann, will be released on November 16, 2011. This is the second installment in a mystery series about a former FBI agent turned lawyer, named Augie Flood.
The book starts out slowly and it took until about page 70 before I began to feel the menace and suspense. However, by about page 180 the story takes off and moves briskly to the arresting ending. I was surprised at who was involved and why. But it all seemed plausible to me given the underworld of Chicago that the author portrays. One of Heinzmann’s strengths is his ability to paint the crumbling neighborhoods of the city in a few well-chosen phrases. It is easy to picture the places he describes. He is also masterful at inserting background information about Chicago politics and clout, which gives the story some heft.
The biggest problem I have with the books is that I don’t like Flood. He is a drunk, rude, prone to violence and a liar. He doesn’t have much social charm, he’s not very funny and he’s overly earnest. Granted, he does have a strong sense of honor, but that tendency is often over-laid with self-pity. He spends the entire book, Throwaway Girl, feeling guilty about how his actions in the previous book had affected his former girlfriend, but his attempts to win her back are lame. When did leaving voice mail messages become a real effort at reconciliation? Yet that seems the extent of Flood’s effort to convince the love of his life that he can’t live without her. Also, there were times when Flood’s anger at another character puzzled me. It wasn’t clear whether it was his internal demons causing the anger or that the situation itself merited that response.
When Heinzmann is in the midst of a crackling action scene he is at his best in both the dialogue and the description. Some of Flood’s behaviors, however, strain credibility. I cannot see Flood, a licensed lawyer, assaulting others, no matter how great the provocation. He is too likely to lose his license. Flood never seems to worry about things like that, but I have yet to meet a lawyer who wasn’t very concerned about the likely ramifications of his or her behavior on keeping law licensure.
The story is about under age prostitution. Sadly, the girls and their pimps seem all too real as do the other various criminals in the story. That makes me wish that the recurring characters had a stronger presence. Jenny, the love interest, is a ghost. One has to believe she has a hold on Flood because he says she does, but the reader doesn’t get to see her in action in a way that explains that hold or even why she would be attracted to someone with many faults and few charms. McPhee, the black detective who sometimes works with Flood, could be a strong counter-point to the protagonist’s overly pretentious sense of self but he seems to be merely a convenient conduit for getting information from the police. Jamie, the openly gay office assistant, comes as close as possible to a fully realized character, but he has more personality in the previous story, A Word to the Wise. Veraneace, who has the potential to be the voice of reason for Flood, is mainly engaged in booking airline reservations. Perhaps the shady characters seem more real to Heinzmann given his chosen occupation and the amount of time he has spent covering crime and politics.
This series will appeal to readers with an interest in Chicago history and politics as well as those who enjoy a mystery with social justice themes. The book will be available in bookstores in early December.