Ian K. Smith is an overachiever with an eclectic resume. Born in Danbury, Connecticut, he received his B.A. from Harvard, an M.S. in science education from Columbia, and attended the Dartmouth Medical School, finishing his M.D. at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine. (Ian is an identical twin and his brother, Dana, is equally accomplished.) With Ian’s expertise, credentials, and good looks, he has amassed a large following, hosting TV’s The Doctors, serving as a medical contributor for The Rachel Ray Show, and writing for many publications. His books on health and weight loss, including Shred: The Fat Loss Diet, quickly became best sellers. Not having enough to do (right!), Smith turned his hand to writing crime novels, including the Ashe Cayne series which began with The Unspoken, and continues with Wolf Point.
Ian K. Smith (Photo Credit Triste Smith)
Surprisingly, Smith’s protagonist, Cayne, is not a doctor, but a police detective who leaves the Chicago Police Department after he refuses to become part of the “blue wall,” covering up the police’s involvement in the death of a young Black man. Cayne’s father, Dr. Wendell Oliver Cayne, is a surgeon, which gives Smith plenty of opportunities to display his medical knowledge. Cayne – Smith, too, we assume – is an avid golfer, trying to get his handicap into a single digit. Getting in a round of golf or just hitting balls at the range are ways he relaxes and mulls over an investigation. He’s also well read and frequently quotes Shakespeare and poets, and, when the occasion calls for it, his grandmother.
Cayne’s latest case is one he was reluctant to take on. Walter Griffin was a prominent businessman and insider around Chicago. While Griffin had friends in high places, including the mayor’s office, he often made deals with people who operated outside the law. Family was important to him and he was close to his wife and children. He had many loyal friends, but he also made enemies. When he was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head, lying on a deserted plot of land in an area near the Chicago River called Wolf Point, the medical examiner ruled his death a suicide. Two years later, his children, daughter Katrina, and son, Walter Jr., show up at Cayne’s office, saying their father would never have killed himself. They want Cayne to find the truth.
Many people, inside and outside of Griffin’s circle, also believe that he was killed. And once Cayne begins to gather information, suspects begin to pile up. At the top of the list are some Russians that Griffin cheated out of a lucrative land deal. So-called friends of Griffin, like Cephus Redmond, who made a fortune running car washes around Chicago, also make the list. Because Redmond loaned Griffin money to buy a condo, Cayne, for a time, chases the money. Then it’s cherchez la femme, when Cayne meets the ravishing Sophia Caballé who inhabits that apartment. Was the very married Griffin having an affair that caused his death?
Cayne has women problems of his own. More than a year ago, his fiancé, Julia, bolted right before the wedding, sending back the engagement ring and heading to Paris with another man. After spending time in therapy, Cayne is trying to put the past behind him, forming a close friendship with Carolina Espinoza, someone he’s known for ten years who still works in the police department. She’s loyal to a fault, often surreptitiously doing research to help him on a case. He’s mulling over taking their friendship to the next level, when he receives a letter from Julia. He puts it aside, both hopeful and fearful of what it might say.
Well known Chicago landmarks are described in the book, but the real action takes place in the seedy places of the city where deals are sealed and, oftentimes, death threats made. Smith brings the reader inside these dangerous dark corners where Cayne once operated as a cop but now must risk everything to unmask the killer. His only defense – Mechanic, a boxer who frequently serves as Cayne’s back up and bodyguard. Cayne, however, can take care of himself, proving to be as skilled with his fists as he is with a golf club.
While a plethora of crime novels are set on either coast – L.A. or New York – Smith’s decision to set this series in Chicago is genius. Best selling author Sara Paretsky’s P.I. V.I. Warshawski is one of my favorites. Now I have another Chicago detective to follow. Looking forward to Cayne’s next case.
Top photo: Bigstock