Sunday 30 January 2011

Review: Mean Streets - The Chicago Caper by Graham Marks

After having recovered from his adventure in Constantinople, Trey is staying at the Circle M Ranch, outside Topeka, Kansas, owned by his Gramps, the original T Drummond MacIntyre. But it's quiet in Topeka and Trey is bored. However, that's all about to change. A new mystery and an exciting adventure begins for Trey as he soon finds himself thrown into the middle of a mafia-backed plot to derail the presidential elections. From detective work to kidnapping, Trey is thrust into the frightening, secretive world of the mafia and despite all that s come before, nothing can prepare him for the dangerous world that awaits him on the Mean Streets of Chicago.........

The first book featuring Trey MacIntyre was one of the first books that I reviewed on The Book Zone, back in October 2010. At the time I likened I-Spy: The Constantinople Caper to the Young Indiana Jones TV series, and the sequel now set in Chicago and Topeka, Kansas is more of the same - an entertaining, fast-paced, action-packed adventure story that owes a lot to the traditions set by the pulp novels of the early 20th Century, as well as the real-life activities of the Chicago mobsters and their nemeses, Eliott Ness and his Untouchables.

Mean Streets starts off with Trey holidaying at his grandfather's Kansas ranch. For most young boys this would be a funfilled time of horse riding and ranch working, but as we discovered in The Constantinople Caper Trey is no ordinary boy. Instead, he is a boy obsessed with the adventures of his hero, private investigator Trent "Pistol" Gripp from Black Ace magazine, a passion further fueled by Trey's recent acquisition of a copy of How To Become A Private Eye In 10 Easy Lessons, by Austin J. Randall. As such, where a normal kid would just admire a fancy Buick Monarch, Trey sees mobsters and a potential case for him to investigate, especially as said mobsters seem to be meeting with a less-than-friendly neighbour of his grandfather. So begins another adventure for Trey which finds him embroiled in a mobster plot to influence the next presidential election and thereby keep the extremely profitable prohibition laws running. Sadly Eliott Ness does not make an appearance in the book, but head of the Chicago branch of the Bureau of Investigation, Robertson Ely Bonner, is surely partly based on the famous real-life lawman.

Whilst I really enjoyed The Constantinople Caper I also felt that it had a few weaknesses. None of these are present in Mean Streets, and I flew through the story in a single sitting - this is most definitely a book for 9+ boys who enjoy action and adventure stories. It has shoot-outs, kidnappings and gritty detective work, and its setting, based on the real events that happened in 1920s Chicago, makes it even more enjoyable. I'm sure that I will not be the only 'boy' who has a desire to find out more about this fascinating period once the book is finished (confession - I felt compelled to watch The Untouchables again that very evening).

Mean Streets - The Chicago Caper was published back in December 2010, and my thanks go to the generous people at Usborne for sending me a copy to review.


  1. I so need to get this for the school library. Sounds really evocative of the 1920s crime scene. Cool!