This is the third Dana King crime novel I've read, and though they are all linked in various ways, they are not really connected in a straightforward series. For example, Nick Forte, the detective protagonist of this novel, makes an appearance in King's previous Grind Joint, but he is a secondary character, described in the third person. Furthermore, though written earlier, Grind Joint takes place a little later in time than A Small Sacrifice does. I had a slightly different impression of Nick from the outside than I do from within his own head, A Small Sacrifice being told in first person, and was glad to get to know him a little better.
A Small Sacrifice is connected to an earlier novel, Wild Bill, by taking place in Chicago and environs. I was perhaps inordinately excited to find a (very) passing reference to Gurnee, as that is where my dad was born. Neither here nor there to most, it nevertheless is an example of how much the book is rooted in a particular place. The distinction between different neighborhoods and communities is part of the story here.
Forte is summoned by a woman in one of the wealthier of these communities, setting him what even from the outset seems a quixotic task. She wants him to prove that her son didn't strangle his own small son in the basement of his home. Her son is not in jail and nothing has been proven, but the taint of the rumor hangs heavily over his household and his mother wants to free them of that. Forte attempts to talk her out of it, but she appeals to the father in him, and soon he's off on the trail.
Of course it doesn't take long before things get complicated. Somehow Nick has managed to run afoul of the Chicago mob (organized crime being another element that has appeared in all of King's books that I've read), and soon Nick is trying to figure out just why someone put a hit on him.
One thing that sets Forte apart from other fictional private investigators is that a lot of his time and thought is invested in his young daughter, who as a divorced father, he spends precious little time with. King spends the time in his fast paced tale to make her her own person .You have the sense that whatever is reigning Forte in and keeping him following his better impulses is largely down to his concern for her.
A Small Sacrifice was nominated for the 2013 Indie Shamus award. It's definitely in the Chandlerian vein, with just enough deadpan wisecracking to lighten the more hard-boiled aspects of the tale.