VIXEN by Bill Pronzini


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The Nameless Detective’s so deeply impressed by the femme fatale who hired his agency and did them dirt that he devotes a prologue comparing her to such legendary vixens as Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Cora Papadakis, Matty Walker, and Catherine Tramell. Not so fast, Nameless.

Looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, Cory Beckett tells Nameless that it’s just as bail bondsman Abe Melikian has said: her brother Kenneth, accused of stealing a $20,000 diamond necklace from Margaret Vorhees, the alcoholic wife of San Francisco Maintenance Workers Union chief Andrew Vorhees, has taken a powder. Armed with the information Cory has helpfully supplied, agency operative Jake Runyon soon tracks him down. But Kenneth, who’s obviously terrified of going back to the Bay Area and facing his sister, tells quite a different story. He didn’t steal the necklace that was found in his car, he insists; it was planted by Frank Chaleen, a mysterious partner in Cory’s schemes, in order to frame him. Naturally, Cory denies the whole story, and then so does Kenneth, who says he just made it up. The narrative’s shifts in viewpoint from Nameless to Jake to Nameless’ partner, Tamara Corbin, to Chaleen himself prevent the tale from developing much momentum, and by the halfway mark, the only casualty is Cybil Wade, Nameless’ mother-in-law, dead of a stroke at 88. At length the bodies duly pile up, but the evil over which Nameless waxes so rhapsodic never seems justified by Cory’s nefarious behavior.

Judging from Nameless’ superlatives, in fact, you’d think he’d completely forgotten the women who drive the plot of Camouflage (2011), only four titles back in this venerable series. What a shame that Cory is just as forgettable.

Pub Date: June 23rd, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-7653-3568-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2015


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