3 out of 4 stars
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The Legman is a crime thriller by Mike Kerr, set in Chicago in 1969. Micky Mulvihill is the chief reporter and owner of the Central Standard Times, a weekly newspaper with a small circulation that survives on its sales of advertising space to local businesses. When a group of one hundred African Americans march down a white street in a silent protest against racial segregation, Micky tries to find who is responsible for organising the march. He reads a letter addressed to his boss, Jim Diamond, from Reverend Charles Moore, the senior minister at the Garfield Park Baptist Church. Reverend Moore’s letter accuses Avenue Realty of colluding with gang members to have them harass white neighbourhoods in Austin with graffiti, vandalism, and intimidation. Micky believes the march was coordinated by a black man with a pyramid tattoo, the mark of a gang called the Blackstone Rangers. However, Micky has no idea of the evil he is about to face.
Kerr’s opening scene was visceral. His prose in general was simple, straightforward, and gritty, making it punchy and easy to read. His streetwise dialogue sounded authentic and natural. He depicted the racial tensions powerfully, clearly demonstrating how easily one unfortunate coincidence could cause bad blood between blacks and whites based on their prejudiced assumptions. The character development was strong and realistic for both the heroes and villains throughout the book.
The Legman’s descriptive prose was also top-notch: “Inside the small shack, the air is hot, thick, and hazy from grease. The smell is a combination of sweet and peppery spices that the beef simmers in. Fries boil in wire mesh baskets. Sausages sizzle on the grill.” Overall, Kerr’s writing was simple, elegant, and hard-hitting. He consistently produced quality prose which suited the era and the genre perfectly.
The passages from the killer’s point of view were particularly disturbing. Kerr’s murder scene was stark and brutal, too, pulling no punches. Similarly, the emotional family scenes in the Mulvihill household in the wake of the murder were especially powerful and moving. The author also delivered at least one brutal plot twist like a sharp punch to the gut, right on the tail of a happy and touching family scene – brilliant writing.
The Legman did, unfortunately, have some minor typographical errors, but these didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. Currently, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. However, with the errors fixed, it is definitely 4-star material – a gritty, hard-hitting crime thriller with strong characters and streetwise prose. I believe any fan of the crime genre would enjoy this book. It contained some profanity but only low-level sexual references.
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