Schemers: A Nameless Detective Novel
Forge, 2009 (2009)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Tim Davis
is the latest installment in the longest running series of its kind (i.e., Bill Pronzini's
novels have been appearing regularly since 1969), and it is more incontrovertible evidence that the 2008 winner of the
Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award
still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve when it comes to laying down a first-class P.I. novel.
ctually, the foregoing is a bit misleading (i.e., let's just call it a red-herring that needs to be swept off the page right now) because
is more than a single-story P.I. novel. It is actually something like two-and-a-half novels all wrapped up into one tidy package. Well, let me explain.
s for the first storyline, the nameless detective is dragged reluctantly by an insurance company into investigating a case in which someone has apparently stolen eight extremely expensive books (all of which are not-so-ironically mystery novels). The wealthy collector who has filed the insurance claim is less than charming - to say the least - and the nameless detective (i.e., the former cop and semi-retired San Francisco P.I. with a sense of humor but an unwillingness to tolerate fools and liars) is up against a classic locked-room mystery. The case has plenty of suspects but no motives or opportunities for the crime, and the crafty nameless P.I. has a hunch that somebody is working a first-class scheme (i.e., con-game), but the clues are few and confusing. Then, when murder becomes part of the mystery, things really get challenging.
hen, as for the second storyline, the nameless detective's partner in crime investigations, Jake Runyon, is assigned another oddball case, but this one promises to be even a bit more bizarre (and even more murderous) than the missing mysteries caper. Someone in nearby Los Alegres has been terrorizing the Henderson family. The problems begin when someone desecrates a family cemetery plot, and they escalate when the Henderson brothers and their families begin to be threatened and assaulted. Someone clearly does not like the Hendersons, but Runyon - unlike his boss - has neither suspects nor motives, and the clues are even more elusive than in the locked-room purloined book mystery.
inally, as for the partial storyline that rounds out the two-and-a-half novel framework, the nameless detective's seductive secretary takes a walk on the wild side in her personal life, but - much to her chagrin - appearances can be deceiving. And the lesson she will learn is difficult: Some kinds of happiness are fleeting, and some kinds of regrets last forever.
ell, the bottom line is this:
is great fun and ought not to be missed. Pronzini's latest will have you addicted to the nameless detective's antics and burning the midnight oil (as if people really do such things any more, but you get the idea), and - if you've somehow overlooked the author's impressive body of work (three dozen books, including three collections of short stories) - you'll be crashing the doors of your library or bookstore for more Pronzini.
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