“Zigzag”, by award-winning veteran author Bill Pronzini (Forge Books, $24.95) is the latest in his popular series starring a main character known only “The Nameless Detective.”
This isn’t your usual hard-boiled detective novel, instead it’s an intriguing collection of two novellas and two short stories.
“Zigzag” is a 120-page novella that starts out as a simple accident investigation.
It soon escalates into much more, especially when the semi-retired private investigator discovers a pair of dead bodies and a dead dog outside of an isolated cabin.
He does the smart thing and calls the cops, but finds that his challenges are just beginning. He decides to look into the case a bit more, helping out the wife of one of the victims.
Pronzini, who’s received the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America, has a great reputation for deftly creating unexpected plot twists – and this convoluted tale is no exception.
“Grapplin”, which originally appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, focuses on a murder and a missing persons case – dating back to 1963 in New Orleans.
The Nameless Detective, as usual, asks many questions, uncovering useful information before getting satisfying results.
“Nightscape”, which also appeared in Ellery Queen’s, starts off with an odd incident at a 24 Hour Diner. The main character and his partner are trying to track down a deadbeat dad who owes more than $30,000 in child support to his ex for their two kids.
Things get a little wild and there’s a brief flurry of violence as a fight ensues - from a different source.
The Nameless Detective offers insights: “Funny business, detective work. Crazy business sometimes. Mostly it’s a lot of dull routine, with small triumphs and as much frustration as satisfaction. But once in a great while, something happens that not only makes it all worthwhile but defies the laws of probability.”
Pronzini makes it all believable, with strong characters, creative storytelling and a great understanding of human emotions and behavior.
“Revenant” is an exceptionally bizarre case, where the hero again gets involved in a peculiar life-or-death situation.
The author has written over 40 books in the Nameless Detective series over the last four decades; it’s fun to watch the characters grow, priorities shift and lifestyle changes occur.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime
novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.
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This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on June 12, 2016.