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VACUUM by Bill James Kirkus Star


by Bill James

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-78029-012-6
Publisher: Creme de la Crime

What happens when the status quo goes belly up?

Rival drug barons Mansel Shale and Panicking Ralphy Ember treat each other with benign neglect. No drive-by shootings of couriers. No back-alley dispatching of underlings. No messy attempts to wrest control of the area around Valencia Esplanade from each other. There’s a simmering tension, sure, but life is basically quiet for mobsters and civilians alike, which is just how Acting Chief Constable Iles likes it. When Shale abdicates his fiefdom and turns to religion after the shooting death of his wife and son (I Am Gold, 2011, etc.), however, the status is no longer quo. His second in command, who sometimes thinks he’s General Franco back in the 1930s, may not be suited for leadership. Hints that the third goon in line may be making plans to elevate himself to Number One cause his girlfriend Karen, who’s afraid he’ll get himself killed, to ask DCS Harpur to intercede. Margaret Ember, who suspects that her husband is responsible for the Shale killings, is so afraid she and her daughters will be targets of retribution that she calls on Karen in a bid for sympathy. Sir Upton, Iles’ new superior, who wants to take advantage of the Shale organization’s disarray and rid the area of his rival as well, orders a raid on Ember. So many people stepping into the vacuum left by Shale mean that there’ll inevitably be corpses. And sly maneuvering. Until, thankfully, an emotional reversal sets matters right again.

A noir farce that’s just as wickedly funny as most of the 27 other Harpur and Iles escapades—compelling evidence that James is long overdue for a major award.