Wednesday, 11 March 2009


Amos Walker is back, and for most of this novel Estleman shows why his detective has remained a mainstay in the streets of Detroit, while many of the other regional private eyes have fallen by the wayside. Walker is hired by a former star baseball player, who's now facing bankrupcy, to investigate his daughter's boyfriend, who, he worries, is after her trust fund money, all that he has left her. When Walker finds the daughter murdered, he finds himself in his usual position, caught between the cops, his client, and the real killer. In this case, the killer would appear to be the boyfriend, but Walker needs to find him and prove it before he starts feeling a literal pinch.

What works best about this book is the way the aging Walker and his own increasingly creaky business, fit in with both declining Detroit and with the faded glory of his client, a hero the last time the Tigers won the World Series, back in 1968, a victory which, it being Detroit, sparked riots. There are a number of convincing scenes, especially one where a corrupt real estate agent tries to seduce Walker, and all of them play off a sense of time passing, and not for the better. And of course all this was written before the auto manufacturers discovered that there was a 'get out of jail free' card available from the government, in terms of bailouts for an industry which already had ground itself and its city into meaninglessness.

What works less well is the final third of the book, where Walker is forced to perform some heroic derring-do reminiscent of Harrison Ford in Air Force One. For just a second, I thought the derring do might become derring didn't, and this would be an elegaic story, and thuswork better; on the other hand I think I'd miss Walker.

So I'm glad the villains did miss him. Someone ought to get Estleman into print in this country; see my very first American Eye column in Shots; you can find it here. We need more good private eyes.

American Detective, by Loren Estleman
Tor Books 2007, US $7.99, ISBN 0765350823

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