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19 january 2024

In Tracy Clark's Fall, somebody murders two Chicago aldermen in quick succession. Of course the joke is that everybody in the city is a suspect.

Of course, murder mysteries shouldn't be jokey. On the whole, Fall, and Clark's now-two-volumes Harriet Foster series, are not light-hearted. Foster herself can barely stay afloat in seriously-rendered personal trauma. She is still pursued by terrors – and now, by a real blackmailer – in the wake of her detective-partner's suicide that occurred before the series even began. But aldermen we barely meet before somebody ices them and loads their bodies down with thirty dimes apiece … they're not really figures of sympathy.

As in Hide, though, the characters are stronger here than the plot. Foster and her cantankerous team of cops are well-drawn, as is the central suspect, the ex-alderman and ex-con Marin Shaw.

I tipped to the killer with more than a hundred pages to go. Foster and her partner Vera Li methodically eliminate suspects, and their good detective work, combined with the omniscient look at the killings that Clark provides, mean that after a while, there is only one likely murderer. But the action is extravagant enough, and the Chicago winter setting so icily drawn, that Fall, despite a few flaws, is a well-above average murder mystery.

Clark, Tracy. Fall. Seattle: Thomas & Mercer [Amazon], 2023.