Edgar Award Finalist: A mysterious stranger sparks mistrust and violence in a gripping tale of small-town prejudice, jealousy, and murder from Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Bill Pronzini.
The arrival of big, ugly John C. Faith in a battered Porsche sends up warning flags throughout the small Northern California resort community of Pomo. No one trusts the stranger who refuses to talk about why he is there. And when a local beauty with questionable morals is found murdered, suspicion immediately falls on him. Condemned without a trial, Faith hides among Pomo’s outcasts and conducts his own investigation. But his hunt for the killer and the town’s hunt for him threaten to dredge up secrets best left uncovered in this powder keg of a town, exposing crimes and dark compulsions that can only lead to more violence and death.
A riveting thriller told from various points of view, A Wasteland of Strangers is an extraordinary feat of literary invention from one of noir fiction’s most acclaimed practitioners.
While some readers may resist the ending, Pronzini (the Nameless Detective series; Blue Lonesome, etc.) plays fair and spins a nifty page-turner. Fast-shifting first-person narratives from various characters (a lovelorn police chief, a spouse-battered waitress, an alcoholic newspaper editor and others, all speaking in instantly identifiable voices) build this tale of small-town meanness and its lethal consequences. Big, ugly John Faith arrives in Northern California's Pomo. Locals are disturbed by his scars, his battered Porsche and by his brooding insistence on privacy. An inflammatory editorial, written drunk, in the weekly newspaper sets almost everyone in town against Faith. The police chief sees Faith apparently running away from the bludgeoned body of Storm Carey, rich widow and practicing nymphomaniac, and tries unsuccessfully to arrest him. Shot and wounded by the chief, Faith flees into the forest, heading for the lake. During the ensuing manhunt the fugitive is aided and abetted by an unlikely trio of women. The story fairly tears along to the jolting climax. Even after everyone has his or her say in the epilogue, readers still don't know John Faith's secrets. But that mystery is more haunting than maddening. Pronzini's newest story is a gem.