Bad money turns unforgettably murderous in the twenty-seventh novel of the long-running, award-winning Nameless Detective series.
A simple case of blackmail gets lethally complicated when "Nameless," Bill Pronzini's seasoned private-eye, exposes a nasty scam that involves junior accounts executive Jay Cohalan, his unhappy wife, and a mistress with a serious drug problem. It's the kind of case "Nameless" likes, because bleeders—the blackmailers, extortionists, small-time grifters, and other opportunists who prey on the weak and gullible—sit near the top of his most-worthless-human-beings list. So he contemplates with pleasure the prospect of putting another one or two of these parasites out of commission, and then returning the $75,000 in cash to its rightful owner.
"Nameless" discovers, though, that he is not going to be able so easily to close his Cohalan file—not when he finds his client face down in the middle of a four-poster bed with a bloody, powder-scorched hole behind the right ear. And only by a hair's breadth does "Nameless" himself escape a similar fate. Aggrieved, cut to the psychological quick by his close brush with death, "Nameless" embarks on a relentless hunt for his unknown assailant in San Francisco's shadowy underworld. There he encounters bleeders of every ilk—like the loan shark Nick Kinsella, drug dealer Jackie Spoons, punch-drunk boxer Zeke Mayjack, and crankhead Charlie Bright—before he tracks down his quarry.
At a deserted backcountry road stop "Nameless," packing his long-unused .38, attends to the last of a bad business and, in a climax as powerful as it is unexpected, finally confronts his own demons. He maybe even conquers them.
At age 60, Pronzini's Nameless Detective has been through the wars more than two dozen times in such singular mysteries as Crazybone and Boobytrap. Now the San Francisco based PI has acquired a daughter, a home and a name "Daddy" that may portend retirement if he can solve a case that spirals from simplicity to murderous complexity in a heartbeat. Hired to safeguard a blackmailed husband's final payoff, Nameless is almost killed and his client is murdered. In addition, the money, the husband, the husband's mistress and a vicious killer all go missing. Nameless has patrolled the mean streets of San Francisco for a long time, and nobody knows them better or performs the traditional PI role better. But age is telling, and his near-death experience has Nameless re-evaluating his relationship with lover Kerry and orphaned Emily. However, before he can resolve his future, Nameless must descend once more into the San Francisco underworld of drug dealers, grifters, users and other "bleeders." Pronzini's storytelling is straightforward, honest and effective. The settings, from the city's slums to its coastal highways, are vividly drawn, and the tawdry denizens Nameless must confront to recover the ransom and find a killer are utterly convincing. Nameless, as suggested here, may be on the verge of a well-earned retirement, but he's in top form as he often has been in Pronzini's award-winning series. FYI:A recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private-Eye Writers Association of America, Pronzini has won three Shamus Awards.