A gritty noir that strives to remake Raymond Chandler for a younger audience—and mostly succeeds.
This novel by Davis (The Fort, 2013, etc.) reintroduces teen PI Nickel, tough as nails but with a vulnerable heart. Fresh from a revenge mission in upstate Michigan, he's trying to get his life put back together. Accepting a job that should be easy surveillance, he instead finds himself embroiled in a 15-year-old mystery. At the center are Betty and June, two restless teens who, when they discover that June’s aunt Mandy was murdered and her boyfriend, rotting in prison, may be innocent, set out to solve the crime as a school project. The narrative alternates between Nickel’s first-person reflection on his life, the case and his attraction to Betty and third-person narration that offers a wider lens, with the occasional chapter taken from Mandy’s diary. Though it takes a little while for these three different voices to coalesce, the structure begins to feel seamless after a few chapters, and the novel is driven quite satisfactorily to its hard-boiled conclusion. Nickel channels Chandler’s jaded detective Philip Marlowe and his peers; his voice is at once old-fashioned and street-smart, and he reveals hints of his tragic past as he works to “try and do the things regular people won’t do, see things they refuse to see.” For her part, Betty is a tough and sympathetic female counterpart.
Who knew Grand Rapids had such a seedy underbelly? Edgy, stylistic