Reviewed by John Orr
Fans of crime fiction can celebrate the new year with the debut of an
astoundingly good writer, Marcus Sakey, whose first novel, ''The Blade Itself,'' is the
terrifically engaging, poetically structured tale of a man
both tortured and tempted by his criminal past.
Danny Carter is living a very good life for a kid who grew up poor and Irish in Chicago.
He has a management-level job, a nice place to live and an absolutely wonderful
But he sometimes still has nightmares about his last criminal job, when
he and a friend, Evan McGann, robbed a pawn shop one night. McGann pushed their luck and big
trouble happened. Carter walked away, but the crazy, gun-happy McGann stayed too long, shot
someone, and ended up in prison.
Seven years later McGann emerges with jail-house muscles and more
sociopathic tendencies than ever. Carter likes his old friend -- he notes his beer tastes better
when McGann is around -- but wants nothing to do with the scheme McGann has planned.
But McGann is not to be denied, and makes his threats clear -- if Carter
doesn't help him, Karen would be in danger, Carter's boss would be in danger. Carter can't
just call the cops, because McGann is an old friend -- and one who still has the power to rat
him out about the pawn-shop job.
So, Carter reluctantly helps McGann, hoping to protect people in the
It all quickly goes south -- people are murdered, a child is kidnapped
and Carter's entire world is in danger in every way.
We like Danny Carter. Sakey keeps a lot of action buzzing along as we
learn more about him, building our empathy for the guy while at the same time racheting up the
tension to the point that we turn pages with clenched fingers.
There's no easy way out for Carter, but Sakey manages a satisfying
Great stuff; here's hoping Sakey has more such novels in him.