First novel in the Nathan Heller series. Heller is a plainclothes detective on the Chicago police force. The year is 1932. Capone has just been taken down by Elliot Ness and is await appeal. The World’s Fair is coming to Chicago. In the middle of all of the young Heller is picked up by two of Mayor Cermack’s favorite detectives. They are on their way to roust Frank Nitti, the man who has taken over Capone’s business. At least that is what they tell Heller. The two detectives shoot Nitti and try to make it look like he was carrying a gun. This was a hit put out by the mayor. Heller saves Nitti’s life by calling for an ambulance.
Disgusted by the corruption on the police force Heller quits and opens his own private detective agency. His childhood friend, the boxer Barney Ross, gives him a place to stay. Heller is off to make his way in the world. Before the novel is over he has worked the World’s Fair, tangled with mobsters, slept with a couple of beautiful women, and watched as an assassin “misses” his chance to kill the newly elected President Roosevelt and instead shoots and kills Mayor Cermack.
This novel sets the tone for the Heller novels. The detective likes to think of himself as a jaded cynic. However he is constantly coming out doing the right thing, if not always in the right way. Tough as nails with a smart mouth Heller is the classic hardboiled, noir detective.