Jackie Fajt is a hometown hero who, despite being a genuinely good person, always manages to get into trouble. His latest scheme falls right into this old pattern. When he hears the G-20 summit is coming to his city, he figures out a way to make some money, have some fun, and make sure people remember his good friend, a homeless man who was murdered by a cop.
If that alone isn’t enough to paint the law enforcement as untrustworthy, we also get to see inside the FBI investigation into both Jackie and a couple of unfortunately timed mafia murders. The agents talk about sex more than they do their cases, and they care more about looking good and avoiding bureaucratic interference than they do about getting justice. They hide evidence, disobey orders, trade sex for favors, and murder with impunity. The cops are definitely not the good guys.
All told, this is a fascinating story of murder, extortion, sex, dirty cops, betrayal, terrorism, and love. It really does have everything. Though a lot of the story focuses on horrible people doing horrible things, Jackie’s motives remain pure, and he is the heart of the story. His relationships with his mother figure and the homeless people of Pittsburgh are truly beautiful. Thomassey does an excellent job of using these relationships to add real, touching, but not overly sentimental, moments to the narrative. This helps remind the reader that, despite the shallow callousness of the federal agents, people are generally good.
Some of the characters could use a bit more fleshing out, but the fast-paced action and simple, straightforward prose help make up for that. There is a lot of sexual innuendo, joking, and activity. It does get to be a bit much at times, but it is used to show the corruption of the FBI. In that, it is very successful. Though it delves into the dark, dirty, and demoralizing, Circle Jerk is overall an exciting, engaging, satisfying read. If frequent, graphic sex scenes and explicit language make you uncomfortable, this is not the book for you. Otherwise, it is certainly worth a look.