Two brand-new novellas and two reprinted short stories test the semiretired Nameless Detective’s ability to close cases—and the gentle reader’s taste for new wine in old bottles.
The two brief reprints both involve serendipitous discoveries. In “Grapplin’,” Nameless (Vixen, 2015, etc.), who’s signed on to help a long-estranged uncle search for his missing niece, is surprised to solve a 50-year-old double murder along the way. The even shorter “Nightscape” finds Nameless and his operative Jake Runyon sitting in a diner hoping to catch the scent of a deadbeat dad and ends with their bagging “two violent, abusive fathers in the space of about three minutes.” The title novella follows an even curvier path. Nameless, working a rare case himself out in Rio Verdi, begins by collecting statements from witnesses to an auto accident involving San Francisco businessman Arthur Clements, then takes a macabre turn when his search for one more witness leads him to the bodies of two men who’ve apparently shot each other in an argument over drugs. Newly widowed Doreen Fentress, convinced that her Ray wasn’t that kind of man, hires Nameless to find out the truth about him, and to her sorrow, that’s exactly what he does. The client in “Revenant,” suburban stockbroker Peter Erskine, is literally spooked by the effects of another car crash. Elza Vok, the Lithuanian Satanist who plowed into Erskine’s car, cursed him on his deathbed, and now Erskine and his ailing wife, Marian, are both convinced that an evil spirit has assumed Vok’s physical form to haunt them. Pronzini tries to end on the same ambivalent note as John Dickson Carr’s classic novel The Burning Court but doesn’t quite pull it off.
Proficient but routine work.