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by J. L. Abramo
St Martin's Minotaur, August 2004
240 pages
ISBN: 0312326505

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jake Diamond is a less than successful private investigator who has a run-down office in San Francisco. He likes to think he's a tough guy, but when the people that he cares about are threatened, he is willing to make every accommodation that is needed. And that's how he ends up in the office of Max Lansdale, a mob-connected attorney who at one time had hired Jake's mentor, Jimmy Pigeon.

Lansdale's thug, Ralph Battle, is ready to do some serious damage to Jake's secretary, Darlene, and ex-wife, Sally. Six years earlier, Jimmy supposedly killed Harry Chandler, a police detective who was rumored to have killed Lansdale's brother Randolph. But now Harry's been sighted, and Max needs Jake to finish the job that Jimmy began.

Naturally, all is not as it seems. Max Lansdale is an even more reprehensible person than it first appears. He sets up a hit on Jake, which ends up injuring him personally and physically. And that means it's pay-back time, and Jake and his band of trusty friends set up a complicated plan to bring Max to justice.

The book pays fond homage to the great PI traditions of the 50s: the seedy office, the beautiful female assistant. I half expected Jake to put on a fedora. Some of the character names in the book may be familiar to avid mystery readers: Chandler, Lansdale..

I really wanted to like this book, but ultimately I ended up dissatisfied. Jake as presented at the start of the book is an easy guy to like. He's full of wisecracks; he has a huge sense of loyalty to his friends. But as the story progresses, he seems to lose his sense of humor, and the tone of the book changes. I liked the fact that Abramo kept things real, as when Jake is injured and out of commission for a few months and not back in action the next day.

The area that I had the most trouble with was the conclusion, wherein Jake and his colleagues put together a totally complicated plan against Max. It was clever but so convoluted that I could not follow it. There were too many people doing too many things at the same time. In general, that was the case throughout the book, with several plot threads winding along and getting the reader tangled up along the way.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, October 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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