Even though he’s pushing 60, Pronzini’s Nameless detective (Boobytrap, 1998, etc.) still has the chops to solve two mysteries this time around. The first is strictly business: Intercoastal Insurance wants to know why newly widowed Sheila Hunter won’t cash the $50,000 policy that ultra-persistent agent Richard Twining jawboned her husband into buying. So Nameless buzzes on down Highway 208 into chic Greenwood, where he promptly gets shown the door by Sheila, her friends . . . even her dentist. It’s not until Sheila vanishes, taking with her her precocious ten-year-old, Emily, that tongues loosen enough to give Nameless a peek behind the Hunters’ ideal-couple façade into a world of betrayal and deception. Set against this toxic suburban landscape is the kitchen-table comfort of Nameless’s mother-in-law, Cybil, author of the Sam Leatherman detective novels, who inveigles our hero (over chicken pot pie) into poking into a second case: the demise of her neighbor Archie Todd, who died of heart failure, but left under his bed a pink .10 milligram digitoxin pill—twice his normal dose and enough to send an angina patient like Archie into ventricular fibrillation. As in a good episode of NYPD Blue, the two plots interleaf but never intersect, offering more than their share of clues, leads, revelations, and red herrings along the way.
Too self-righteous to be good company, Nameless is still a good detective—intuitive enough to get the right hunch and persistent enough to track it down time after time.