Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Penance: A Chicago ThrillerPenance: A Chicago Thriller by Dan O'Shea
Dan's rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publisher: Angry Robot/Exhibit A
Available: Now
Price: 14.99

When an old woman is shot by a sniper just after leaving confession at Sacred Heart church, Chicago cop John Lynch is on the case. But what does the case have to do with one in 1971 that saw his father murdered? And what will the shadowy government organization that has also been tapped to bring in the sniper do if Lynch gets in the way?

First off, the official stuff: I got this ARC from Exhibit A in exchange for reviewing it. I'm a huge Angry Robot fan so when I heard they were launching a crime line, I sprung into action and nabbed print ARCs of their first two books.

Penance is a hard animal to classify, kind of like a dinosaur. In this case, it's not bird vs. reptile but hard-boiled detective vs. police procedural vs. espionage thriller. It's an exciting chimera to behold.

The protagonist, John Lynch, was the biggest selling point for me. A second generation cop, Lynch has been living in the shadow of his father, murdered when he was a kid, most of his life. He doggedly pursues the sniper despite being shot at, stonewalled, and eventually blackballed. He's no superhero, either, getting wounded over the course of the book and not being comfortable with taking a life. His relationship with Liz was a little abrupt but not outside the realm of believability once it got going.

When the book first jumped to Weaver and his black ops crew, I rolled my eyes a bit, military fiction not being one of my favorite genres. While Weaver's segments had a few too many tactics and weapons descriptions for my taste, it managed to steer clear from gun porn territory and actually meshed pretty well with the more detective-y sections featuring Lynch. It also didn't give me Brad Thor flashbacks, something else I am thankful for. Weaver, Ferguson, and the rest were believable antagonists, adhering to the rule that the best villains are the ones that think their actions are right and justified.

The sniper, while not getting a lot of solo time, was pretty believable and made a chilling threat. I found myself avoiding windows when walking to the bathroom to keep from getting shot by an unseen assailant a few times. I also really liked his reasoning behind shooting people just after they left confession.

The two plot threads, the one in the past with Lynch's father and Lynch's tale in the present day, intersected where I thought they would. There were some twists near the end that brought this above the level of most thrillers.

One thing that I thought was really odd was this bit from Lynch's point of view:

Colleen Lynch-Ketteridge stepped out of the car in a Hillary Clinton-type pant suit, except Hillary didn't have Collie's ass.

The phrasing is a little creepy to me but I don't have a sister. Maybe if they have nice asses you say things like this?

3.5 stars. I'll read another Dan O'Shea (or Exibit A) book after this.

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