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Bill Pronzini's "Nameless" detective has become one of the longest-lived, and consistently highly praised, private investigators in the annals of American crime fiction and the award-winning author proves, once again, that his skills
Things were quiet in the San Francisco-based agency Nameless founded and his
partners, Jake and Vanessa were itching to get back to work. A deadbeat father needed to be found, and Vanessa needed to do some field work, so she took the file and headed out to keep an eye on the last known address.
Jake got to work on something much more personal...and dangerous. The Castro had become the stomping ground, literally, of two violent gay-bashers and the most recent victim was Jake's son's lover. Father and son are estranged, but maybe helping now would help them reconcile. That was Jake's thought when he started. For Nameless it was all a matter of letting everyone know that if they needed his help, he was there.
Jake was handling his situation but for Vanessa, things got out of hand. Her perp never showed up, but when she saw a man carrying a young girl into the house across the street, she knew something was wrong....and about to get worse, because she was going to investigate what was going on.
When she doesn't show up a few days later, Nameless feels a sinking in his gut: a few years ago he'd been kidnapped, shackled, and left to die in a cabin in the woods and something about Vanessa's disappearance echoed too loudly. When he discovers the house she'd investigated on her own and sees the words TAKING US TO A HOUSE IN THE WOODS scrawled on a closet wall, the echo became thunderous.
Now it was a race against time, and the clock had begun ticking before "Nameless" and Jake heard the starter's gun.
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Conceived as a lone-wolf sleuth, prowling the fog-embraced hills and criminal redoubts of modern San Francisco, Bill Pronzini's Nameless Detective has evolved over the course of 29 novels into a semi-retired family man and mentor to two younger operatives, neither of whom seems any more capable of staying out of trouble than Nameless was in his prime. Fortunately, Nightcrawlers (the sequel to Spook) packs enough grim drama and emotional traumas to go around.
A couple of short-fused homophobes are putting the hurt on gay men in the city's Castro district, and among their victims is Kenneth Hitchcock, the elder lover of investigator Jake Runyon's estranged 22-year-old son, Joshua. So, for professional as well as personal reasons, the widowed Runyon takes an interest in these attacks, connecting the bashers to an underage hustler and an "old-fashioned meat market" called the Dark Spot. Meanwhile, Nameless is summoned to the death bed of Russell Dancer, a manifestly repulsive former pulp-magazine contributor (first introduced in 1973's Undercurrent), now fallen on hard times, who has an unpublished manuscript he wants delivered to Nameless's mother-in-law, Cybil Wade, after whom he's lusted--unrequitedly--for half a century. It will be a test of Nameless's diplomatic acumen to fulfill Dancer's request, without drawing rancor from both Cybil and his wife, Kerry. A still greater test, however, awaits Nameless's black junior partner, Tamara Corbin, whose assignment to stake out a deadbeat dad turns into something more perilous, after she spots her subject's neighbor sneaking an unidentified, squirming bundle into his house one dark eve.
It's evidence of just how much American detective fiction has changed over the last 30 years, that Nightcrawlers can come off as fresh. Even with its high-stakes, triple plot lines, this novel is more retro than revolutionary. Yet the Shamus-winning Pronzini, who has outlasted most of his original contemporaries to become a sage of the genre, continues to entice by emphasizing character development over simplistic violence or gruesome gimmickry, and by allowing Nameless to do something rarely attempted: explore the creaky twilight of his hero-hood (he's now in his early 60s). Seems that age really can bring wisdom. --J. Kingston PierceAbout the Author:
Bill Pronzini is the author of more than sixty novels. He created "Nameless" in a short story in 1969, and the first Nameless novel was published in 1971, making his exploits the longest-running private eye series currently being published.
Bill Pronzini has received three Shamus Awards (two for best novel, and the Lifetime Achievement Award), and six Edgar Award nominations. His novel Snowbound received the Grand Prix de la Litterature Policiere as the best crime novel published in France in 1988. He lives in northern California with his wife, the crime novelist Marcia Muller.
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