Friday, September 5, 2014



Only an insider Chicago pol like Jimmy Flannery could solve the crimes in Robert Campbell’s 1989 book Nibbled to Death by Ducks.

A so-called cousin puts Flannery’s Chinaman (political sponsor) Chips Delvin in a deteriorating Chicago nursing home. Three have died there in suspicious circumstances.

When Jimmy Flannery finds the third man lying face down in the duck pond, he becomes convinced Chips Delvin could be the next to die. Jimmy had asked the murdered man to keep and eye on things and report to him.

Jimmy and his wife Mary struggle with whether to build a house. Jimmy likes living in the flat were they are, among the people he grew up with and serves. His wife wants their own home.

Over the course of the book, Flannery (a Chicago precinct captian who is nominally a sewer inspector) makes promises and cashes political chits to learn the history of the nursing home. Finally, Flannery sneaks Chips Delvin out of the Larkspur Rest Home and solves the murders.

The book’s crisp Chicago dialogue and Flannery’s stark first-person narration make this book fun.

This book gives a disturbing view of nursing homes. 

Nibbled to Death by Ducks and the other Flannery books purport to take us inside ward-level Chicago politics in the Richard M. Daley years.

Sometimes you find gems in your local used book story. That’s where I found this old copy of a book I first read years ago, Nibbled to Death by Ducks.


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