The Bottom Line: Sturgeon’s deft balance of history, mystery, and comic relief will leave you breathless. A joy to read for fans of historical fiction, murder mysteries and personal discovery.
Crimes of the Levee explores not one, but two cases thrust upon Detective Patrick Moses. No, it’s not set in Holland; the titular levees refer to Chicago’s Levee neighborhood, a pseudo red-light district where Patrick finds himself searching for Isabella Rossini, the Italian ambassador’s niece, and a missing billionaire heir, Marshall Field Jr.
The author bounds from one case to the other while weaving in tales of Patrick’s past as an orphan at the Holy Trinity Church. It sounds like a lot to take in, but John Sturgeon is deft at keeping the reader immersed, whether Patrick is interviewing a suspect or exploring the deepest recesses of the Levee District. Naturally, the setting lends itself to a cast of colorful characters, but Sturgeon’s talent at dialogue is mote evident in the back-and-forth exchanges between Patrick and his partner, Gunter Krause. The two of them shine throughout the novel, especially when Patrick and Gunter are tossed into the underground world of bathtub gin, brothels, and under-the-table gambling.
Readers will be interested to know that there was a real-life Marshall Field Jr. murder and that the places mentioned in the Levee District are, in real places, too. Throughout the book, readers will stumble upon clues and dead ends alike, truly blending fiction with the criminal justice system. Twists and turns abound and at the end, Patrick fall headfirst into the tangle of cases and characters — it’ll leave you breathless.
If a straightforward thriller always leaves you craving more character development, John Sturgeon’s fleshed-out protagonist is sure to satisfy.