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At The City's Edge / Marcus Sakey

thAtCityEdgeCover.jpgSt. Martin’s Minotaur / January 2008
Reviewed by: Martel Sardina

Crenwood, the fictional South Side Chicago neighborhood where Marcus Sakey’s characters come out to play, is rendered so beautifully on the page that readers may not believe that it really doesn’t exist. Crenwood itself is not beautiful. Poverty, drugs and gangs have turned the neighborhood into a war zone. Jason Palmer should know. Palmer recently returned to Chicago after an “other than honorable” discharge from the Army, after being deployed to Iraq. Palmer has seen the horrors of war and, upon his return, finds that the horrors of a different war await him.

Jason’s older brother, Michael, is no stranger to Crenwood’s perils. Michael’s wife, Lisa, was killed in an accident caused by a police chase, leaving him a widower and a single father to their young son, Billy. In the wake of Lisa’s death, Michael becomes an activist, in the hope of making Crenwood a safer place to live. What Michael doesn’t realize when he undertakes this mission is that some people have a vested interest in keeping Crenwood the way that it is.

When Michael is murdered, Jason vows to find his killer. Elena Cruz, a talented officer with the Gang Intelligence Unit, and Michael’s friend, wants to bring the killer to justice, but knows finding the responsible party will not be easy. Crenwood’s residents want safety, a need so basic that many people on the outside take it for granted. They need the help of the police to achieve that goal. But dirty cops and others who want to maintain the status quo leave residents tight-lipped and questioning who is really on their side. And thus begins the rollercoaster ride that combines fiction with a biting social commentary that at times is so painful, it hurts to read.

Jason slowed the Caddy, rolling down the ramp at a bare crawl. He’d never been down here before. What most people thought of as Lower Wacker was actually the second level, a throughway that wrapped along the river and provided a short cut to dodge the traffic lights and gawking tourists of the surface streets. Everybody knew that Wacker, but he doubted many had taken the ramps down one more level, to the bowels of the city, a bleak lost place where service trucks moved between exhaust-stained roll doors under the timeless haze of yellow sodium light.

This world belonged to people the one above tended to forget. Garbagemen, repair crews, delivery drivers. Scores of homeless huddled under iron girders. They all had the same blanket, which baffled Jason until he realized where the blankets came from. They were hotel linens, grown too ratty for paying customers. Tossed in the Dumpster and repurposed by an army of the forgotten that slept shoulder to shoulder in the street beneath the Hyatt. The lowest tier of hotel guest.

It seemed like a beautiful, terrible symbol, though he couldn’t have said of what, exactly.

Jason coasted to a stop where Stetson intersected Wacker. Felt that tingle in his fingers. He didn’t know exactly when the meet would take place, but probably not till closer to midnight. It was eight now; he’d come early to see how it looked.


Following up a debut novel - 2007's The Blade Itself - that made several year-end “Best of ” lists is a daunting task, but Marcus Sakey has nothing to fear. He demonstrates a maturity that many authors take years to develop in his sophomore effort. Readers will find themselves sucked into Jason Palmer’s world and be hard pressed to get out of it. Sakey’s prose reflects a voice all his own, but draws on and improves upon the storytelling style of page-turning masters like Dennis Lehane, David Morrell and Elmore Leonard.

Purchase Marcus Shakey's At The City's Edge.

Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2008 at 11:15AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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