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Zigzag: A Nameless Detective Collection    by Bill Pronzini order for
by Bill Pronzini
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I'm not normally a fan of mystery short stories, who could resist Bill Pronzini's Nameless Detective Collection? This is actually the 45th in the series, quite an achievement! It includes four noir novellas: Zigzag, Grapplin', Nightscape and Revenant, the first and last originals.

The first, Zigzag, takes a semiretired Nameless from San Francisco to Northern California's Russian River for what seems at first a simple accident investigation. Nameless is to interview witnesses. After being given the name of another possible witness, Nameless stumbles 'onto a shed full of marijuana and a dog and two strangers shot to death.' Marijuana deal gone bad or connected to his case? He assumes the former. One of the victims was an ex-con whose wife hires Nameless to find out how her husband dies. It turns into a real zigzag of a case, and it nearly gets him killed.

In Grapplin', an elderly street musician asks Nameless and his energetic young partner Tamara to find his niece, Robin Louise. Turns out that he's a fugitive and Robin Louise is his daughter. He wants to tell her the truth of what happened to her mother, whom he was convicted of killing. In Nightscape, Nameless and Jake Runyon are after a deadbeat dad, waiting in an all-night diner - they get their man but also stop a kidnapping and 'collar two violent, abusive fathers in the space of about three minutes.' A great night's work!

Finally, Revenant is the 'weirdest damn case' ever for Nameless. A financial advisor in Atherton asks to see him at his home, concerning his sick wife. They believe their lives are in danger from a black host, that they've been cursed by a dead man. Nameless investigates against his better judgment, and begins to suspect manipulation and deceit. Then the wife dies - the perfect crime? But the ending leaves questions.

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