Detroit PI Amos Walker must find a missing movie fan before the credits start to roll—“Sharp and energetic . . . a joy from start to finish” (Chicago Tribune).
What could be more innocent than watching old movies? For Neil Catalin, a wealthy man with a happy home, old-fashioned pictures were a hobby that became an obsession. But he wasn’t watching The Wizard of Oz. Crime movies were his passion, the sort where life is cheap and death is free, and Catalin sank himself into them as an escape from the stresses of suburbia, when soaring debt threatened to overwhelm the life he had created. Now he has disappeared, and his wife believes the clue may be in his collection of gruesome classics. She calls on Amos Walker, who ventures into a black-and-white past in his hunt for the missing man. The journey is far from escapism, because this is Detroit, where the guns don’t fire blanks. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Loren D. Estleman including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.
By rigidly sticking to the form, Estleman has become the reigning king of the traditional, tough-yet-tender style of crime novel. Amos Walker, his Detroit gumshoe who returns in fine style after a seven-year absence (Sweet Women Lie), is a welcome shot of retrograde private-eye cool. The narrative pieces add up to a film-noir nightmare; the missing guy, the silky mistress, the worried wife, the slick business partner, the scheming brother-in-law. It all ought to be so many black-and-white images on celluloid. And it is, as Estleman divides his book into "reels" instead of chapters and makes Neil Catalin, the missing man, obsessed with the dark side of cinema. Neil, who watched death and treachery on film for long hours before he vanished, cracked up once before and spent time in a sanitarium in the north of Michigan, where a doctor videotapes his sessions with wealthy clients. Amos is hired by Gay Catalin to find her missing husband; Neil's brother-in-law, Brian, steals film equipment from Neil; Neil's former lover, Vesta, is an ambitious actress and just the kind of good/bad girl Amos finds it hard to say no to. Estleman expertly manipulates a complex plot, boobytrapping his tale with movie lore and arty imagery. It's an ambitious conceit that he pulls off admirably. Two revelations near the end aren't especially tough to anticipate, but by then readers will have grown to love for its own sake the monochromatic world in which they've been immersed, shot through with cigarette smoke, slick patter, strong liquor, icy betrayal and no shortage of hard irony.