They’re young, smart, mostly beautiful – graduate students at an elite university who are naive enough to believe they can make a difference. Little did they know the most important lesson they will learn is how to stay alive. For Ian Joyce and Sarah Gold the first day of class starts like any other. Then a fellow student, Jake Havens, pulls a wrinkled envelope from his jacket. Inside is a blood-stained scrap of shirt from a boy murdered fourteen years ago and an anonymous note taking credit for the killing. The only problem is the man convicted of the murder is already dead. Suddenly, the class has a new assignment: find the real killer.
As a bookseller, I regularly recommend Michael Harvey to those needing an alternative to Michael Connelly and his ilk, as Harvey so consistently produces incredibly readable Chicago-set police procedurals. The Innocence Game is slightly different than his usual fare, straying into the legal territory of John Grisham and Mark Gimenez in this highly enjoyable stand alone.
With the interplay between the three central characters- a small group of intuitive and ambitious legal students, tasked with finding the real perpetrator of an abduction and killing of a young boy- Harvey immediately envelops the reader in their backgrounds and defining characteristics. As the book progresses, we discover their particular strengths and weaknesses, and certainly in the case of Ian, their back stories are discovered to be intrinsically bound up with their central ambitions in training to enter the legal world. As a further series of killings occur, all three protagonists are put in danger as their investigations bring them into the direct sight of a killer, and causes them to question the actions of those in whom they have a belief and trust. Harvey carefully illustrates the consequences of these actions on the psyches of Ian, Sarah and Jake, and plays with the central dynamics of the relationships between them, as they find themselves inextricably embroiled in physical danger. For my money, Sarah is perhaps the weak link in the characterisation, but only because the two male characters have a much more intriguing back story and unusual set of circumstances that have paved their way in life, but on the whole their interactions work well within the central plot. The plotting cannot be faulted as Harvey closely controls the gradual revealing of key information and there are enough twists and turns along the way to keep those pages a-turning, with one reveal in particular catching me completely off guard. An accomplished thriller from a writer who could be a great new discovery if you’ve not had the pleasure of reading him before…
Michael Harvey is the author of The Chicago Way, The Fifth Floor, The Third Rail and We All Fall Down, and is also a journalist and documentary producer. His work has won numerous national and international awards, including multiple Emmy Awards, two Primetime Emmy nominations and an Academy Award nomination. He holds a law degree from Duke University, a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in classical languages from Holy Cross College. http://michaelharveybooks.com/
(With thanks to Bloomsbury for the ARC)