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by Loren D. Estleman
Forge, April 2003
288 pages
ISBN: 0765304473

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Loren Estleman is the true offspring of the classic hard-boiled p.i. His Amos Walker, from Detroit is unsentimental, a loner and not given to lots of introspection but he does the right thing for the right reasons. Walker doesn't seem to have much life outside his p.i. work - no wife, no kids, few friends (but those he has go back a long way) and he's not moving into the 21st century very happily. Here's a guy who still types his reports, sneers at computers, makes phone calls from land-linesŠyou get the picture. He is book-smart - making almost throw-away references to Circe and cyclops - but also he is street smart, and cynical and wise. He's not easily impressed, nor easily frightened. Walker takes everyone, it seems, at face value, whether they are bums, stars, crooks or cops. 

Gilia Cristobal, the latest fantastic Latin singing sensation is in Detroit and Walker is asked to help her. It seems that Gilia is being blackmailed, but that's not the problem; the problem is that the blackmail has stopped, and Gilia is now worried that the secret her blackmailer knows will be made public. Should that happen, she will be deported, in all likelihood, to her home country where she will be either tried for murder and killed, or, more likely, killed without trial. 

Giliia got Amos' name from Hector Matador, who when last Walker saw him, was being sent away for life, based on Walker's testimony. Matador is an odd choice for a music star's manager, but I suppose where there's money to be made, there are crooks to make it. It's an odd alliance but it's a complicated business. Why Gilia would hire a thug, well, who knows but she's not an innocent, and she is clearly successful, so something is working here.

Along with help from his old buddy Barry Stackpole and Detroit police inspector John Alderdyce (who would deny actually being friends with Walker), Amos spends time unraveling what happened to the blackmailer and learning Gilia's history with the help of Professor Zubaran, who escaped from torture by his repressive regime with Gilia's help and who might provide an alibi. He's a skillfully drawn, and sympathetic character and is an example of Estleman's superior ability to define character. There's even a side story about Presa Canario dogs - which apparently is a breed Walker doesn't know about. Since he won't admit to reading newspapers and keeping up with the world, maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but this breed of potentially nasty dog showed up in a major criminal investigation in a death in San Francisco and I, for one, found the name hard to forget. No big deal. The big deal comes in stories of arrogance and fame, and dealing with what's important in the world. Estleman simply makes it clear that in the long run, fame and fancy wardrobes aren't impressive and aren't what matters; truth and justice, as corny as that sounds, matter far more.

Reviewed by Andi Shechter, April 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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