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Thursday, February 16, 2017


Revolver, by Duane Swierczynski is a story about three generations of cops in Philadelphia, starting with Stan Walczak who was murdered in the line of duty, although at the time of his death, he was also drinking at a bar during his shift. He was killed in 1965 along with his partner, George Wildey. At Stan’s funeral, his 9-year-old son, Jimmy vowed to find the person who had done this and bring him to justice, one way or another.

Thirty years later, 1995, Jimmy was Homicide Detective Jim Waczak, and he took the second of his three kids, teenager Cary, to the bar where the murder happened, Jim’s annual tradition to honor his father. He confided in Cary that he was pretty sure he knew who the killer was, a junkie, Terrill Lee Stanton, but there was never enough proof to hang this murder on him. Never mind, because Stanton was in prison anyhow on a different murder charge. Then in 1995, Jim is assigned a new murder investigation when 25-year-old Kelly Ann Farrace is found raped and murdered. She was a magazine writer who was assigned to publish a story about 30 promising Philadelphia residents who were all under the age of 30. What was the tie in to the current political climate in town? The mayoral election was about to happen, and the murder occurred in the part of town that was supposed to be safe. Why was Sonia Kaminski, linked to the mayor, pressing Jim to solve the case so quickly? It was another case that went officially unsolved.

By 2015, Jim was retired Captain Jim. His oldest, Stas was on the police force, but he was chronically depressed, an alcoholic, and his career was going nowhere. The youngest of Captain Jim’s three kids, Audrey, was in her second year of college in Houston where she was studying police forensics (although she was on the edge of flunking out of her program). She didn’t talk to anyone in the family, had even changed her last name to distance herself from her abusive father and dysfunctional family. But Audrey had been called home for a ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of her grandfather’s death. This very dysfunctional Walczak family was back together. What could go wrong?

Audrey decided that the one way she could save her college career was to do a special project in which she brought new forensic science to the scene of her grandfather’s death, and then solve the murder. Her parents, long since divorced, and her brothers did not want her to do that, but always the stubborn one, she bulled ahead with her project. She figured out that there had to have been two shooters, not just one, and with that info, the Walczak family totally unraveled. Audrey figured it all out – a convoluted and dark history unfolded, and you’ll have to read the book to learn the details. The mysteries involved lots of family connections, too many family secrets for this reader.

This was a book that was recommended by an NPR reviewer, Nancy Pearl. Her website offers a wealth of information. While this book does not get a strong recommendation from me, assuming you like dark stories, it was entertaining and I plan to continue to consult Pearl's website.

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