Roses & Thorns

Roses & Thorns

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Maxwell Street Blues by Mark Krulewitch


Chicago runs in Jules Landau’s veins. So does the blood of crooks. Now Jules is going legit as a private eye, stalking bail jumpers and cheating spouses—until he gets his first big case. Unfortunately, the client is his ex-con father, and the job is finding the killer of a man whom Jules loved like family. Why did someone put two bullets in the head of gentle bookkeeper Charles Snook? Jules is determined to find out, even if the search takes him to perilous places he never wanted to go.

Snooky, as he was affectionately known, had a knack for turning dirty dollars clean, with clients ranging from humble shop owners to sharp-dressed mobsters. As Jules retraces Snooky’s last days, he crosses paths with a way-too-eager detective, a gorgeous and perplexing tattoo artist, a silver-haired university administrator with a kinky side, and a crusading journalist. Exposing one dirty secret after another, the PI is on a dangerous learning curve. And, at the top of that curve, a killer readies to strike again.


I think I can say Chicago runs in my blood, too, having been born at Cook County Hospital and raised on the Northwest Side. That’s in the city, not in the suburbs. I always have a bit of steam come out of my ears when I tell people I’m from the Northwest Side and they say, “So am I. I’m from Mount Prospect.” Or Park Ridge. Or Arlington Heights. I try to smile while pointing out those are burbs, not Sides.

Anyway, I’m attracted to books that take place in Chicago. I think my parents took me down to Maxwell Street once or twice on a Sunday after church when I was a kid. It was kind of like a big, outdoor rummage sale. You could get anything and everything inexpensively and there were hotdog vendors on the street. Some of them have now gone indoors and become franchises.

Maxwell Street Blues doesn’t exactly take place on Maxwell Street. That area is on the fringes of the University of Illinois Chicago campus and apparently is a “neighborhood in transition.” The students, faculty, and accompanying upper class are starting to turn industrial buildings into lofts and push out the druggies, pimps, prostitutes and gang-bangers who inhabited that strip between the time the market closed and the University sprawled south of Roosevelt Road. (Mayor Richard M. Daley’s condo near 1400 South Michigan probably helped spur that growth.) And it’s on a University construction site on Maxwell Street that Snooky’s body is found.

Jules Landau takes the case not because there’s much love lost between him and his father, but because Snooky was like a big brother to him, and he wants to find out who killed the guy and why. Snook was a money launderer and a good one, and you don’t kill the guy who’s keeping your money clean. There had to be something else going on, and Jules sets out to discover what that was. Of course, there are people who don’t want him to figure it out and he spends much of the book popping acetaminophen and nursing black eyes and broken ribs, which, as he points out, “don’t heal in four hours.” In that regard, he’s a bit like another of my favorite Chicago PIs, Harry Dresden (without the magic, of course). But Jules doggedly perseveres, tracking down each lead or whisp of one.

It’s a complex, convoluted, jumbled-up case and it kept me guessing just exactly who, what, and why until the end. I hope these books will be on audio when I can afford to rejoin Audible so I can listen to them while working puzzles when I’m unwinding before bed. That’s the only way I get to do any real fan-girl leisure reading these days. And I’ve become a fan of Jules Landau. You will, too, when you read Maxwell Street Blues.

Length:  245 Pages

Price  Digital:  $2.99

Thanks for visiting. Rose & Rochelle

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