PENANCE by Daniel O’Shea


Exhibit A Books
April 30th, 2013

Characters are important. Characters are tricky. For example: If your rugged hero suddenly starts singing show tunes in the middle of a gunfight, it won’t ring true and youメve lost your reader. Now, take that challenge and up it one thousand times. Because it gets even harder when your lead character is a city.

Dan O’Shea introduces us to his living and breathing city of Chicago in his debut novel PENANCE. While Detective John Lynch is our eyes and ears in this story, it’s the city, and it’s generational mysteries that really is the star of the show. A veteran officer on the Chicago police department, Lynch is investigating the murder of an elderly woman. The woman is shot through the heart as she is leaving confession at her church. The bullet is fired from an impossible distance, and why anyone would harm the old woman in the first place is only tiniest part of the mystery.

Soon, more bodies start turning up and they are all victims of the same super-sniper; however all are seemingly unrelated. The bodies start piling up from all across the country. As Lynch starts investigating the case, the City of Chicago takes the spotlight. Lynch is the son of murdered Chicago officer Declan Lynch, who was murdered in 1971 and the case was never solved. As John peels back the layers of the impossible sniper case, he finds himself surrounded by the stink of the long buried blood and corruption from the ム70メs.
At the same time, O’Shea introduces us to InterGov. InterGov is the blackest of Black Op groups. Not on anyone’s radar, answerable to no one. And they want the impossible sniper taken down at any cost. As agency leader Tech Weaver and his team of agents converge onto the city, the inner workings of InterGov become more and more clear. They are willing to sacrifice anyone and anything that gets in the way of their ultimate goal: putting the sniper in a body bag.

This is where O’Shea’s skills step to the fore. It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of the traditional police procedural because they generally don’t hold my attention. But with PENANCE, O’Shea is juggling three driving plot points: the current day murder investigation led by John Lynch, the fantastic flashbacks to 1971 with Lynch’s father, Declan, and the government conspiracy piece with InterGov and Weaver. While this intricate plotting may seem a bit much for the standard who-dun-it, PENANCE is a cross-generational political thriller disguised as a murder mystery in a town with secrets to spare.

Action and intrigue are the driving forces behind PENANCE, but O’Shea makes sure that the characters are fleshed out and real. The segments with John Lynch and transplanted-from-Minnesota reporter Liz Johnson are some of the most human interchanges I’ve read recently. And officer Shlomo Bernstein deserves his own spinoff novel because he’s just that cool. Never fear, no one starts singing show tunes.

Dan Malmon