Book Title: THE THIRD RAIL
Author: Michael Harvey
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
No of Pages: 284
A woman is shot as she waits for her train to work. An hour later, a second woman is gunned down as she rides an elevated train through the Loop. Two hours after that, a church becomes the target of a chemical weapons attack. The city of Chicago is under siege.
THE THIRD RAIL is the third Michael Kelly, policeman turned PI, based thriller, set in Chicago. And Harvey doesn't muck around, throwing Kelly right into the middle of the action from the start of the book, when waiting at an El stop he witnesses a man shooting a woman in the head. In hot pursuit, Kelly is waylaid in an alley and knocked out cold. Which leaves some room for speculation about whether or not the shooter has a partner. Another passenger dies on the same transport system and it's not too long before it becomes obvious that the first shooting was meant to get Kelly involved.
The pace of the book doesn't let up at any point from the start to the end - which is just as well because the plot gets very convoluted at points with a big cast of investigators including the Kelly, the local police, FBI and Homeland Security. All the way through though, it's obvious that there is something very personal in the targeted involvement of Kelly, and despite all the other participants, he alone is destined to save the day.
Alongside Kelly's story, the story of the killer(s) (it's very quickly revealed that this is a team, although there are aspects of that that need to be left unsaid so as not to spoil the overall plot) is told through a series of revelations. Whilst their story is told, and some of the motivation revealed, it's not until right at the end of the book that all the elements are fully explored. To be honest it wasn't too hard to figure out the main suspect (simply because there didn't seem to be much reason for them to be there otherwise), and it wasn't hard to figure out that the events were going to be connected and therefore where the grudges lay.
I think that's probably the only major problem I had with this book - the motivation seemed to be a tad obvious in some instances, overly complex in others and frankly partially unbelievable. Having said that, Kelly is a good character and I liked the fact that I didn't really need to have read the first two books to get a handle on him very quickly. Ultimately THE THIRD RAIL was fast, it was reasonably exciting, and quite readable. But, and this doesn't happen very often, not a lot of the book has stayed with me.