Well, you guessed it. This is another free download from Munsey's. I can't seem to resist those things, even though I already own the books. This was my St. Patrick's Day book, and let me quote the fifth paragraph:
His name really was Sweeney, but he was only five-eighths Irish and he was only three-quarters drunk. But that's about as near as truth ever approximates a pattern, and if you won't settle for that, you'd better quit reading. If you don't, maybe you'll be sorry, for it isn't a nice story. It's got murder in it, and woman and liquor and gambling and even prevarication. There's murder before the story proper starts, and murder after it ends; the actual story begins with a naked woman and ends with one, which is a good opening and a good ending, but everything between isn't nice. Don't say I didn't warn you. But if you're still with me, let's get back to Sweeney.
So how long has it been since you read a novel who's omniscient narrator addressed the reader directly like that? A long time, I'm sure, and Brown doesn't do it just at the beginning. He breaks into the narrative every now and then like that. And you know what? It works just fine.
Sweeney is a reporter who's been on a long bender, but when he sees a naked woman whose stomach's been slashed, he sobers up almost instantly. He manages to write a story about her, and then he begins his own investigation of the ripper killer who's on the loose in Chicago. If you read the excerpt above, you know pretty much what the book has in it, and how can you resist wanting to read it? The book must have been shocking and surprising in its time (1949), but today's readers won't find it so. Doesn't matter. It's still a great read.
And then there's the totally loopy movie version with Anita Ekberg (!), which is not to be missed. Supposedly the famous film Bird with the Crystal Plumage was also based on this book, though Brown's not credited.