ROBERT CAMPBELL – Thinning the Turkey Herd. Jimmy Flannery #4. New American Library, hardcover, 1988. Signet, paperback, August 1989.

   Jimmy Flannery is not a private eye, but when it comes to doing favors for people, he may as well be. Basically he works for the Sewer Department for the city of Chicago, but in reality he spends far more of his time as the Democratic party precinct captain for the neighborhood in which he and and his wife Mary live. And as I say, doing favors for people.

   The title comes from a bit of black humor. The turkey herd refers refers to the horde of young girls who come to the Windy City every year hoping to become models. And three so far have been killed. The police have no suspects, and the local alderman, Janet Canarias, a Puerto Rican and a lesbian, asks Jimmy to look into in.

   And the next time she comes knocking on his door, her distress is personal. The girl who was going to move in with her has disappeared, her suitcase in Janet’s apartment, but with no sign of her. It us too soon for the police to investigate. Canarias once asks Flannery again for assistance.

   And with a caveat or two, Flannery’s low-keyed look into matters is a pleasure to read. As the author, Campbell seems to have known Chicago politics from the ground up — almost all the way up, as certain political figures try to maneuver their friends (or even themselves) out of the way of Flannery’s investigation.

   Caveats. Campbell is far better at describing life in Chicago as it is (was) lived at the neighborhood level than writing a detective story. Flannery should have put two and two together much faster than he did, and when he does, it is almost like pulling a rabbit out of a hat with only a chapter or two to go. Flannery spends far more time with Willy Dink, a independent one-man pest control man in the dead girl’s building, complete with dog, chicken, snake, and an armadillo, than he does in finding the her killer.

   Here’s a book, in other words, that was fun to read, but in the end, not nearly as solid as it could have been.

       The Jimmy Flannery series —

1. The Junkyard Dog (1986)
2. The 600 Pound Gorilla (1987)
3. Hip-Deep in Alligators (1987)
4. Thinning the Turkey Herd (1988)
5. The Cat’s Meow (1988)
6. Nibbled to Death by Ducks (1989)
7. The Gift Horse’s Mouth (1990)
8. In a Pig’s Eye (1992)
9. Sauce for the Goose (1994)
10. The Lion’s Share (1996)
11. Pigeon Pie (1998)