Little Underworld: A Novel (Hardcover)
Omaha, 1930. When ex-cop-turned-PI Jim Beely murders the man who assaulted his fourteen-year-old daughter, the last person he wants to see is local crooked cop Frank Tvrdik. Luckily, Frank isn’t interested in the lifeless body in Jim’s car. Frank has a proposition: he’ll make the dead man disappear if Jim helps take down Elmer Kobb, who is vying for city commissioner and willing to backstab anyone who gets in his way.
Soon, Jim and Frank are sucked into a seedy world of crime and corruption, where no one is safe and nothing is what it seems. Then Jim is violently attacked and one of his operatives turns up dead within the span of twelve hours, and his search for the truth yields a web of lies and a mounting death toll. As he and Frank are pulled deeper into the city’s dark underbelly and its absurd political machinations, Jim begins to question everything he knows about Omaha and his place in it.
In her moody, ferocious, and darkly funny follow-up to Pickard County Atlas, a novel Tana French called a "slow-burning beauty of a book," the native Nebraskan Chris Harding Thornton mines Omaha's sordid past, melding fact and fiction into an unforgettable tale of danger and deceit. Little Underworld asks: What does it mean to be good, and what is left for those of us who aren’t?
“No one’s innocent in Omaha. Not even the good folks. Crooked PIs, dirty cops, sleazy politicians, coroners, mobsters; everyone’s got an angle, a hustle, an agenda, or a body to deal with. Chris Harding Thornton’s Little Underworld is big, nasty, sharp, and wonderfully dark, packed with 1930s noir and witty dialogue. This book grabs you by those wide lapels and refuses to let go.”
—Gabino Iglesias, author of The Devil Takes You Home
"Thornton laces the hardboiled narrative with welcome flashes of dark humor."
“Little Underworld is fantastic! I couldn’t put down the story of Jim Beely, former cop turned down-on-his-luck private investigator. This is the real deal—cynical characters, moody yet hilarious prose, and a plot that loops and twirls in 1930s Omaha. Wrap that all up in a great old-school noir vibe, and you’ve got one of the best historical crime novels in a long time.”
—David Heska Wanbli Weiden, award-winning author of Winter Counts
"In this richly entertaining historical noir, Chris Harding Thornton slits open the underbelly of 1930s Omaha to reveal its dark and gleaming viscera. Harding Thornton is a brilliant writer, and Little Underworld is a rare gem you won’t want to miss."
—Laura McHugh, award-winning author of What's Done in Darkness
"Seamlessly dark, moving, hilarious and murderously intense, Little Underworld is absolutely tremendous storytelling, rich with human nuance and resplendent with a sepia-toned atmosphere. More, please, Ms. Thornton!"
—Stephen Mack Jones, the August Snow thriller series
“Each page had me questioning my own moral stability as I rooted for Jim, an anti-hero for the ages with a stolen gun in his pocket and morphine in his veins, and only the smallest sliver of hope for redemption. Little Underworld is a stunning tale of crime, morality, and mischief, told with rat-a-tat wit and a cast of characters you won’t forget. This is Harding Thornton at the top of her game.”
—Erin Flanagan, Edgar-winning author of Come with Me
“Little Underworld is so vivid it feels like reading a movie. Straightforward in its telling and subtle in its beauty, this ingenious novel is what might happen if the Coen Brothers set an episode of Peaky Blinders in 1930s Omaha. A lively, unforgettable masterpiece starting with a very personal murder and twisting through an American city's brutal political machine, while never losing sight of hope and grace almost within reach."
—Steve Weddle, author of Country Hardball and The County Line
“A literary noir empowered by the yearnings of flawed characters, gorgeous description, and precise detail. The dialogue ripples off the page—fresh and realistic, while equally entertaining. There are gems on every page that made me laugh out loud. It’s my favorite kind of book—strong action, a compelling story, and deep empathy. I loved it.”
—Chris Offutt, author of the Mick Hardin series