I wasn’t sure what to expect when I cracked open the cover of Dialogues of a Crime by John K. Manos. I knew it was a crime story, but it didn’t seem like the typical murder mystery / detective novel. It’s not. It’s an interesting confection blended of almost equal parts Godfather, police procedural, and film noir with a Chicago twist.
The book opens with a snapshot of a brutal crime in progress. Then the narrative switches to the story of college student Michael Pollitz being caught up in a drug sweep in 1972. Michael, who comes from a blue-collar family, quickly learns that the justice system is radically different for those who have money than it is for him. He tries to do the right thing, but what happens to him is anything but fair.
Fast forward to 1994. A lifelong criminal facing serious time tries to buy leniency by saying he has information about a couple of cold cases—killings that occurred 21 and 22 years earlier. Detective Larry Klinger doesn’t exactly trust the guy, but the information is intriguing enough to make him open an investigation that leads him straight to Michael Pollitz. Is the former student now turned advertising executive cool enough to hide the fact that he’s a murderer? Or is he covering up for an old friend—mob boss Dom Calabria, who’s the father of his grade school buddy?
The story is a page turner; I read it straight through in two days. Yet it touches on interesting issues of justice, guilt, and loyalty. Given the current controversies over the privatization of prisons and the consequences of strict guidelines for sentencing drug-related crimes, this novel has contemporary relevance. Anyone who likes mysteries and crime novels will enjoy reading Dialogues of a Crime.