on November 27, 2011
Devastated by the loss of his daughter, Frank Kalinyak is summoned to his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to attend his high school reunion. Every step he takes reminds him of his loss. Yet he can't let himself forget about the one thing that truly made him happy: his daughter.
While many are not that concerned with the death of a man he'd once called a friend, there are a select few who feel that there's more to the case than meets the eye. Bobby Mack, the assistant D.A., wants to acquire Frank's services in digging a little deeper into Jack Dahlgren's death. He's convinced that Frank can find what it is that they're not seeing.
Unable to deny his friend's request, Frank stumbles into a world that leaves him wondering what he's gotten into. As another killing rattles the community, he does his best to unravel the clues that have been subtly left behind and begins to wonder whether it's possible for the killer to come after him, as well. Come what may, he intends to set things straight. To shine the light at the end of the tunnel in hopes of redeeming himself and setting all wrongs to right.
David has written such a complex and intriguing story that leaves the reader on the edge of his/her seat as they delve deeper into the book in hopes of finding out what happens next. The myriad of characters that we come across as the story progresses adds and enhances the story as we learn about the circumstances that have led Frank to where he is now. I enjoyed the book very much and actually found myself doing some research on Saint Philomena. Truly recommend reading it.
on July 10, 2012
Although flawed, "Iron City" is an absorbing mystery with an intriguing premise set against a keenly observed background of contemporary "Rust Belt" and early 60's "glory days" Pittsburgh, PA. Indeed, the wealth of background detail including Pittsburgh's people, their slang and idiosyncrasies and a knowing depiction of elitist high school cliques and the monsters they can become are the book's major strengths and, in the end, why I can give "Iron City" a positive recommendation.
The plot concerns private detective Frank Kalinya, who returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA and a world of con men, corrupt politicians, junkies, prostitutes, religious fanatics, and others as he tries to discover who is murdering his old friends, all of whom were members of an obnoxious high school clique who called themselves "The Aces," or sometimes, "The Huns."
Author David Scott Milton is a distinguished playwright and screenwriter who has also been a teacher of creative writing, and so what the novel does well - investigate life in the decayed heart of a decaying metropolis - it does VERY well. Oddly enough, to my mind anyway, the book falls flat when it deals with the protagonist, Frank Kalinya. We learn he was an amateur boxer and a big man on campus football jock in is early days. We are told, briefly, that his daughter was raped and killed, that his marriage fell apart and he was terminated from the Tucson Police Force because of his subsequent violent behavior, but it all reads like a litany. It's thrown off with a few lines of dialogue, as it would have been handled in a screenplay. We don't get any details, nothing to make it come alive and remind us what, if anything, it has to do with the character's present circumstances.
For example, in the course of the novel we are told that Frank goes to bed one night thinking of his murdered daughter. In another place we are told that he spends hours looking at a picture of her and that he sometimes awakens thinking she is in the next room. These are good, convincing observations of a grieving father. We know that the daughter was eight years old, we know that in the photograph she is standing in a flower bed -- but we never learn her name and we aren't given any description of what she looks like. I think it would be important to a grieving father, whether it's the freckles on her skin, the exact tint of her hair and color of her eyes. The physical appearance of his child would be one of the things he would be clinging to. I would also think he would have some favorite memories of her, like a birthday party, a trip to Disneyland, the day she got a new puppy or SOMETHING. Instead, we just get the bizarrely cold and distancing lines referring to "his daughter." Neither do we get a clue about his ex wife. Gone or not, like it or not, we carry the important people in our lives with us. Realistically, "the ex" may have had some good points worth remembering. After all, he married her.
So, other than the man's resume of high school accomplishments and the fact that he is struggling with an alcohol and not making very good money, we don't know why we should care about him.
Perhaps this oversight betrays the novel's origin as a screenplay. I don't know if it was or not. I'm just guessing, but the characterizations flaws I mentioned wouldn't be as noticeable in a movie script because any decent actor would fill in the blanks. Of course, a film can also linger for a moment on Kalinya's picture of his daughter, but in a novel the details that made his child special should be touched on. Otherwise, as it does here, it all comes across as kind of..... generic. There are many good things in this novel, including some well developed supporting characters. So, I can only assume that the sketchy nature of the main character's background must have somehow slipped by the author. Sometimes you just get too close to your work to see the obvious.
I will say there is a well-developed, shocking revelation about Kalinya near the end. It just would have been more effective if we cared a little more about him, if we knew something of his humanity in addition to his resume, before we got to the revelation.
Still, in spite of its cookie-cutter detective, "Iron City" is a crisp, engrossing and MOSTLY satisfying tale set against a beautifully realized, keenly observed background. "Iron City" is definitely worth a read.
on October 8, 2012
A good mystery can keep me glued to the pages or can lose me if the wrong turn happens. This book is well written, no doubt about the writing skills, but the lead guy, Frank, is another story. We somehow manage to go along for the ride, and his misery, but we don't necessarily like him or feel the sorrow we should. Frank is an ex-cop and now the circumstances are sort of willing him into being a private detective - one we'd most likely never hire because the guy is miserable and lost. He comes back home for a reunion, gets caught up in a web of grizzly murders and seems to drift about with a picture of his eight year old daughter who was murdered. You want to feel for him, but you never quite get there. He gets into the scene okay, but he floats there. We want him to do more and we, the readers, want to know more, and that is what leaves a vacancy in the story. Iron City is not a place you hope to go to or visit. In fact, as described, you would will your car through the city and pray you have enough gas to get as far away as possible. The author defines the territory and its one we'd all run from. I gave the book 4 stars because as a reader I wanted more from the lead character. The rest of the people living in this miserable town are well written and complete. Frank is still out there somewhere.