Knew I'd like The Fifth Floor after reading the opening quote which is from columnist Mike Royko in reference to Chicago: "This town was built by great men who demanded that drunkards and harlots be arrested, while charging them rent until the cops arrived."
Yes, of all American cities there is a special mystique about Chicago with its gangland murders, wealthy suburbs, and an impression that anything goes in that Windy City by the Lake. Wonder how many movies have been shot there with closeups of the city's bars, streets, and hangouts. Tell you what - cinematography has a way to go to top Michael Harvey who draws such concise, punchy word pictures of his town that we can almost slip on a "greasy set of steps, ", catch a whiff of a woman's fragrance or recoil at the sight of a dead man whose mouth is overstuffed with sand. This author ensnares readers with his words.
The Fifth Floor follows Michael Harvey's successful The Chicago Way, continuing the adventures of private detective Michael Kelly who has a penchant for trouble; he's a guy who barely makes it through each week intact.
Kelly's former girlfriend, Janet, has come to him for help. She's a lovely woman but that's a bit hard to tell with the bruises covering her face. It seems her husband, Johnny Woods, has used her to work of some steam and she has no idea why. When she refuses to leave her abusive spouse Kelly agrees to try to talk to him. But first he does a little investigating via a good friend, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, who tutors him re the way Chicago works on the mayoral level. Mayor's offices are located on the fifth floor of City Hall.
Seems that Woods is a "fixer" for the Mayor - does whatever needs to be done to keep things running smoothly and looking clean. As Kelly digs deeper he finds that much of the dirty work going on today has links to the past, to the Chicago fire in 1871. It soon becomes apparent that the Mayor's family may have been involved in less than respectable ways.
Well, we know what happens to people who find out too much and that's the predicament Kelly finds himself in. Who knows, some may decide that if he were convicted of murder that might just put Kelly out of the way.
Michael Harvey is a superb writer reminding one of the best of the earlier noir stories. He carries us along to a well plotted denouement and since he laces the ride with both humor and grit we thoroughly enjoy every minute of it.