MICHAEL RALEIGH – A Body in Belmont Harbor. Paul Whelan #2. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1993. iUniverse, paperback, May 2000.

MICHAEL RALEIGH Body in Belmont Harbor

   When I found this in the library last week I vaguely remembered reading the first in the series, Death in Uptown, but couldn’t remember anything about it. Not particularly promising, but it was a lean library day, so I checked it out anyway. Good move.

   PI Paul Whelan is a Chicago native who works the dangerous Uptown neighborhoods. As your basic hardboiled PIs tend to be, he’s somewhat at loose ends when a lady asks him to follow a man she suspects of murdering her husband two years ago. The police ruled it a suicide, but she doesn’t believe that; particularly since a small-time hood called her and said he had evidence against the man, then turned up in Belmont Harbor, murdered.

   Whelan doesn’t see much there, but the money’s good, and he takes the case. This quickly brings him in contact with Al Bauman, a legendary and irascible Chicago cop whom he helped and with whom he clashed in the first book. Bauman is investigating the hood’s murder, and Whelan’s involvement isn’t wanted. We know how that goes, though.

   This is one of the better PI books I’ve read lately. The story is told in a straightforward third-person narrative, from Whelan’s point of view other than the prologue. Whelan is a sympathetic and believable character, more reminiscent of Marlowe than Spenser though without the wisecracks. He manages to be both tpugh and vulnerable, and credibly so.

   The cop, Bauman, is also very well portrayed, seems one of the more realistic ones I’ve come across. There is a wealth of Chicago color, particularly in the area of restaurants and taverns, and although I don’t know from Chicago, it seemed real to me. The plot mechanism was the weakest part of the story, but wasn’t so bad as to cause outrage. All in all, I liked it considerably.

— Reprinted from Ah, Sweet Mysteries #9, September 1993.

       The Paul Whelan series —

Death in Uptown. St. Martin’s 1991
A Body in Belmont Harbor. St. Martin’s 1993
The Maxwell Street Blues. St. Martin’s 1994
Killer on Argyle Street. St. Martin’s 1995
The Riverview Murders. St. Martin’s 1997

Editorial Comments:   For more information about the author, he has a webpage here. I have three of the five Paul Whelan novels, but I’ve never read one. Barry’s review of this one tells me that I may have made a mistake about that.