Five books: local crime authors appearing at Lit Fest

In “The Devil's Dictionary,” Ambrose Bierce wrote, “There are four kinds of homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain whether he fell by one kind or another — the classification is for the advantage of the lawyers.” And perhaps mystery writers, too. Crime fiction fans will get their fix at this year's Printers Row Lit Fest with no fewer than a half-dozen panels on suspense novels. In this week's roundup, we highlight books by five Chicago authors who will appear. For details and tickets, visit

This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.

The Innocence Game by Michael Harvey

Michael Harvey finds inspiration in his own backyard in "The Innocence Game." His latest novel focuses on three journalism students at Northwestern University who have enrolled in a seminar to investigate wrongful convictions. The students get caught up in a mystery after one of them receives a confession and a bloody piece of fabric. In a forthcoming Printers Row review, Alan Cheuse says Harvey is "working at the top of his form."

The Skeleton Box by Bryan Gruley

"The Skeleton Box" is the last book in Bryan Gruley's "Starvation Lake" trilogy. Set in a town loosely based on Bellaire, Mich., the book follows Gus Carpenter, a local newspaper editor who has to investigate the suspicious death of a longtime family friend that occurs in the home of Gus' elderly mother. In an interview with Gruley, Tribune columnist Rick Kogan called Gus "a compelling character — and it's a compelling place, Starvation Lake."

Breakdown by Sara Paretsky

V.I. Warshawski will return this fall in "Critical Mass," Sara Paretsky's 16th novel featuring her hard-boiled, feminist detective. For now, consider her previous novel, "Breakdown," which Printers Row called "a tightly woven mystery, set in Chicago, that involves vampire-crazed teenage girls, a right-wing TV demagogue, two female U.S. Senate candidates, undocumented immigrants, wealthy snobs, an institution for the mentally ill and V.I.'s regular crew of reporters, lawyers (and) cops."

A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller

This fall Julia Keller, the Tribune's former cultural critic, will release her second novel featuring Bell Elkins, a West Virginia county prosecutor. Her first, "A Killing in the Hills," featured Bell's quest to solve three men's murders — which her daughter witnesses. Cheuse wrote in Printers Row: "Keller's West Virginia setting is the best of places and the worst of places. ... This she shows us in a novel about which you only want to use the word best."

The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey

Marcus Sakey's new book, "Brilliance," will be out July 16, but if you haven't read his work, consider revisiting his debut novel "The Blade Itself." It was published in 2007 to wide acclaim, including a review in the Tribune, which called it "a subtle mixture of art and violent action."

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