A gangster thriller set in mobbed-up 1920s Chicago—a city where some people knew too much, and where everyone should have known better—by the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of The Untouchables and Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright of Glengarry Glen Ross.
Chicago is as linguistically rich as Glengarry Glen Ross — in fact, as any of his previous work in any medium ... In its scope and ambition, Chicago feels like one of the great American male novelists of the late 20th century — Updike, Mailer, Bellow, Roth — trying his hand at writing a genre novel. But unlike those novelists' somewhat less sure-footed lunges, Mamet lands this with aplomb. This is high genre, a 1920s gangster story, that manages to entertain and engross ... Mamet's ear for the dark poetry of the American male id fuels Chicago. His dialogue here is as sharp as any of his stage plays, and he is unique in that he finds or creates the lyricism that we all like to imagine exists in the patois of every class.
That Mamet is able to bring to vivid life this often-mined era and place is credit not only to his skill with words, but to his agile mind’s ability to enliven even seemingly familiar stories ... Mamet’s Chicago is a harsh and unforgiving place but captured with knowing affection and peopled by a colorful cast, from cops to illegal nightclub owners and their wives and mistresses, safecrackers, crooks, mobsters and hookers ... There are no heroes here. Everyone is flawed. But there are real people here, so real as to be unforgettable and thus fully deserving of that spot on your Chicago bookshelf.
...all this insider knowledge is called into question by the way Mr. Mamet plays fast and loose with history. Generous readers of novels set in particular eras don’t expect precise fidelity to every fact, and small changes to the historical record are not dealbreakers. But Mr. Mamet scrambles his 1920s setting in ways even casual readers could balk at ... Assuming one can put such concerns aside, Mr. Mamet’s narrative has a powerful momentum as he explores Hodge’s conflicted inner life...Every character is defined, and defines everyone else, by race, class, gender and ethnicity. But Parlow, Peekaboo and others speak with complex, three-dimensional, fully human voices ... Mr. Mamet’s novel is alive and interesting, but enjoyment for many readers may pivot on historical veracity.