The Innocence Game by Michael Harvey is change of scene for me. With a few notable exceptions, I tend to shy away from books set on American campuses. Donna Tartt’s excellent The Secret History has proved impossible to better in relation to this theme and I wasn’t surprised to see Harvey’s book likened to it. However, in the search for something different, I gave it a go and found it to be an enjoyable read.
Ian Joyce is enrolled on a graduate course at an elite university that focuses on cold cases that have been forgotten about by the police. A fellow student, the enigmatic and obsessive Jake who has given up a place at a prestigious law school to do the course, presents a case that he wants to focus on: that of a killer who was convicted of a crime that he couldn’t have committed. Jake, Ian and their friend Sarah begin to investigate the case but soon are implicated in a more recent crime. It becomes clear that the Chicago police are involved in not only the original cover-up but are keeping a close watch on more recent events.
The books greatest strength was the tight plotting which gave the story of three disparate students pursuing their individual investigations into the original crime a harmonious feel. The author is clearly confident in dealing with pace and tension and I found myself drawn into the story. There is a fairly shocking and violent scene in the middle of the book that I personally found hard to take. Not for the level of violence, but Harvey’s skill in engaging the reader is such that I was shocked by the assault.
By far, the most interesting character was that of Ian, insecure and living alone in his childhood home, his vulnerability proves to be his greatest strength when faced with adversity. Jake has an otherworldly feel to his character and I didn’t feel as connected to his story although he is a pivotal figure in the book.
I’ll definitely be reading more of Harvey’s books. For a book that I was ambivalent about reading, he won me over. Thanks to Bloomsbury for my copy.