Chaney's first novel begins with a classic setup: World weary anti-hero Bodo Hagen, late of Berlin, returns to his childhood home of Las Vegas, Nevada in order to attend his murdered brother's funeral. He's also there to find his brother's killer, and is ready to move heaven and earth to mete out justice. His search for the murderer leads him on a strange odyssey through his former stomping grounds, where he encounters old acquaintances, both friend and foe, as he moves closer to uncovering the reasons behind his brother's death. Along the way, he earns the enmity of the local police, the city's criminal element, and, oddly enough, a detachment of the French Foreign Legion connected to his late brother.
Author Don Winslow captures the essence of Chaney's outstanding debut in an enthusiastic blurb on its back cover when he asks and answers the following question: "Can a novel be 'retro' and fresh at the same time? Apparently, because Chaney's book is just that, a smart new take on a classic genre." Exactly. Even as he evokes classic hardboiled novels like The Maltese Falcon (here, the MacGuffin is a priceless artifact known as the Hand of Danjou) and I, The Jury, Chaney makes the material his own, adding artistic flourishes and offbeat humor (like tagging effeminate fence Winston W. Wilson with the nickname "Winnie the Poof"). After only a few pages, you'll find yourself doubting that this is a first novel. After you finish, you'll be anxious to read his follow up.