Detroit’s Loren Estleman punches in for another shift at the Shamus Motor Company with this, the 23rd in his acclaimed Amos Walker series, and once again the end result is one sweet ride. This ain’t no featherweight, half-plastic sub-compact running on political correctness, genteel plotting, and recycled banana peels, but a full-throttled all-metal monster powered by a mighty V8 that runs on blood and sweat, Winstons, and old issues of Black Mask; as relentless as a John Lee Hooker riff.
There’s always been something satisfyingly retro about Estleman’s private-eye hero, even if some of his anachronisms may have moved from affectation into pig-headedness by now (it’s hard to swallow any investigator worth his salt still working without a computer in 2014), but Walker remains, however much he bitches, a man of his time. This time out, it’s a runaway trophy-wife job. Mega-rich investment banker Alec Wynn wants Walker to find Cecelia, who has taken a powder and left behind the “usual” note. “Don’t look for me,” it says.
Of course, what kind of a dick would Walker be if he let a little piece of “common drugstore stationery” deter him? And what kind of a detective novel would this be if it were a simple skip trace? Pretty soon Walker’s bumping up against sexy herbalists, dead bodies, a hidden grow house, Mossad agents, porn films, assorted thugs, and a nefarious plot to corner the Detroit heroin market, concocted by an Asian supervillainess right out of the pulps.
Hokey? Maybe in lesser hands, but Estleman pulls it off with style: all big-shouldered prose, jackhammer wisecracks, and muscular plotting that doesn’t pussyfoot around, while still allowing room for the sort of mature, bruised idealism and a survivor’s watered-down dreams to bleed through.
Walker may be a man out of time, but his clear, unflinching take on the present—and the human condition itself—makes him an ideal traveling companion. The final reveal, when it comes, is as haunting as it is almost inevitable. Walker may never be trendy, but like the 1970 Cutlass behemoth he still drives, he’ll get you there. In spades. Long may he run.