Crimes of the Levee
by John Sturgeon
Black Rose Writing

"Father Luigi taught me endlessly about right and wrong and I understand that, but I slip now and then."

It's 1905 and First Ward detective Patrick Moses, along with his partner Gunter Krause, witness the hanging of a serial killer, Simon Kluge, who had terrorized prostitutes, primarily from Chicago's promiscuous Levee District. Unlike many detective mysteries, Sturgeon does an exceptional job revealing the character of Patrick Moses, the man, the lover, the detective, and the experiences that made him.

Abandoned at birth, Moses is taken in by the Holy Trinity Church and raised by Pastor Luigi, a father, friend, and confidante. Whether irony or coincidence, happy and peaceful endeavors are short lived in Moses's life. He has hardly completed the Kluge case when he is assigned not one, but two cases: the hunt for Isabella Rossini, the niece of an Italian ambassador, and identifying what really happened to billionaire-heir Marshall Field, Jr., who succumbed to his injuries after allegedly firing a gun while in the Field's mansion. The plot essentially jumps from one case to another throughout the book. Though readers are left in suspense through Moses's interviews with persons of interest, what is for certain is that the Levee District is up to no good.

High on dialogue, the novel often plays off Moses and Krause, ever ready to jump into a fight, for comic relief. They are often left wondering whom they can trust, especially within their ranks. Interestingly, the duo's work is wrought with the death of anyone that could provide insight into the inner workings of the Levee. Moreover, Sturgeon's portrayal of Chicago in 1905 lends a fresh perspective to readers: Stating that there is no dearth of brothels—or resorts as the owners would prefer it called—casinos, and free-flowing alcohol is a massive understatement.

While the back and forth plotline from the search for Isabella Rossini to the Field case can get bogged down, there are other bright spots such as Moses's quest to uncover the truth regarding his parents. Perhaps linking the two cases together is the notion of white slaving, a process by which women are unsuspectingly charmed then later forcibly placed into brothels as prostitutes. As Moses wades through a series of seemingly unrelated and mysterious events, readers will uncover one secret after another, making Crimes of the Levee a worthy one-time read.

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