Review

The Fifth Floor

by Michael Harvey

From page one of THE FIFTH FLOOR, a follow-up to 2007’s
THE CHICAGO WAY, it is evident that former police officer Michael
Kelly is no ordinary private eye. When Kelly’s ex-lover,
Janet Woods, shows up at his office wearing sunglasses to conceal
her battered face, Kelly slides a book of poetry across his desk.
He then translates for Janet the first line of an ancient poem
written by Catullus: “Odi et amo” --- I hate
and I love.

It’s not the first time that the
well-read PI has tried to convince Janet to break free
from the cycle of abuse, take her teenage daughter, Taylor, and
leave Johnny Woods for good. Janet isn’t searching for
inspiration from an ancient Latin poem. She isn’t seeking
advice from Kelly and doesn’t want her husband to know she
has hired a private investigator. But she does agree to let Kelly
trail Johnny. Kelly hopes he can talk some sense into Johnny, a
well paid “fixer” who works for the mayor on
the fifth floor of Chicago’s City Hall.

Kelly enlists the help of Fred Jacobs, a
reed-thin-Camel-smoking-deeply-paranoid-Pulitzer-Prize-winning
investigative reporter --- and a source of information about
Chicago’s politicians and elite. Once Kelly gets a lead on
Johnny’s daily schedule, he tails the thick-necked
bruiser’s cab to a neighborhood on a tree-lined street in the
old-money part of town. From a safe distance, Kelly observes Johnny
entering an elegant cottage. Almost immediately, Johnny rushes
out with a shocked look on his face.

After Kelly enters the cottage, he discovers the reason for
Johnny’s quick retreat. Hanging from the second floor railing
is the body of an elderly man whose mouth is stuffed with sand.
Kelly briefly examines the victim and crime scene before making his
own speedy exit. He later calls the police from a pay phone to
anonymously report the murder. The next day, after reading a report
about the man’s death in the newspaper, Kelly senses a
cover-up in the making. While the article about the dead man
includes the fact that he had been an amateur historian with a
special interest in the Chicago fire, there’s no mention of a
homicide.

Kelly’s discovery of the body and his deepening interest
in the case propel him on a collision course with the police
department and some of Chicago’s most powerful and prominent
citizens. With the help of some trusted friends, the fast-talking,
street-smart and gritty Chicagoan uses his intellect and broad
shoulders to stand up to all manner of crooks and thugs.

Author Michael Harvey has created a page-turner with a damaged
yet interesting hero worth rooting for. THE FIFTH FLOOR is a novel
about the worst and the best of the human condition --- power,
greed, corruption and hate; loyalty, sacrifice, courage and love.
Vivid writing, snappy dialogue and fast-paced drama, along with the
mystery and intrigue of Chicago and its legendary fire, make THE
FIFTH FLOOR an end-of-summer sizzler.

Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt (dvolkenannt@charter.net) on January 21, 2011

The Fifth Floor
by Michael Harvey

  • Publication Date: July 14, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0307386295
  • ISBN-13: 9780307386298