Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Review: Revolver

Revolver Revolver by Duane Swierczynski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One crime. Three generations. And a whole lot of Bloody Marys.

In 1965 Philadelphia police officer Stan Walczak and his partner are shot to death in a bar. 30 years later Stan’s son Jim is a homicide detective who is torn between working the case of a high profile killing of a young woman vs. tracking down the man he believes killed his father who was recently released from prison on another charge. Cut to 2015 where Jim’s daughter Audrey is a forensic science student who wants to investigate the murder of her grandfather as a project for school and unwittingly begins asking questions that bring up a lot of dangerous secrets.

Duane Swierczynski is almost always a fun read, and this time out he’s adding a bit more depth. This is mainly a family drama with a crime story. The best parts of the book are where it explores the three main characters. In Stan’s story we find a man who sees himself as a working class guy who just wants to do his job, and then go home to drink some beers and read the paper. He doesn’t want to be a hero or rock the boat, but that’s the role being thrust on him by his new partner, George Wildey. He’s also got more than a few hang-ups that this new partner is black. Jim wants to be the good detective and reliable family man that he seems to be, but he’s haunted by the death of his father and often finds himself in a bar rather than going home after work. Audrey is the family black sheep whose academic career is about to go down in flames, but she seems more concerned with finding her next Bloody Mary than anything else.

Swierczynski also does a top notch job of making his three Philadelphia time periods seem vivid and alive. Whether it’s explaining the history and look of a particular neighborhood, racial tensions, the background music, or the food being eaten it all feels like you’re walking the streets with the characters.

The one thing I was a shade let down by was the overall mystery part. There’s some fairly complicated secrets underlying the whole story, and that’s the part of the book that feels both a bit too elaborate but also short changed at the same time. None of the main characters really do all that much to advance the plot, and almost everything they learn is just told to them at various points by other characters with only their general poking around providing the impetus to that. By the end I’ve got a lot of questions remaining that aren’t addressed.

It’s a solid and entertaining read with a lot of things I very much enjoyed although it could have used a bit more investigation and explanation for my tastes. Call it 3.439 stars.

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