It's 1959, and Rochester (“Mobtown”) is seedy, greedy, unabashedly corrupt. A connected operator named Joe Petrone runs it—the gambling, the vice, the widespread extortion—and “everything about it stinks,” says Ike Van Savage, once a cop, now a p.i. and the rare citizen a Petrone stare won’t scare half to death. What makes Ike different? Asked that kind of question, he’ll usually shrug and answer, mildly enough, that he never planned on dying in bed. But even a cool cat like Ike might have backed off Mrs. Eddie Gill’s “matrimonial job” if he’d known where it would lead. It seems simple: Follow the errant husband, take the compromising photos of him and the bimbo, collect some easy money. Who could have guessed all roads would lead to the racket king’s door, though not without side trips involving several gorgeous but dubious females (Mrs. Petrone among them), a variety of hidden agendas, and more ill-intentioned hot lead than Ike’s seen since Korea. Ike hangs in, of course, suffering beatings, knifings, double-crossings, and the bitter disappointment of love gone wrong. But then, after a furious, action-packed climax, he manages to sort out who did what to whom and explain it to the reader, more or less persuasively.
Kelly (Line of Sight, 2000, etc.) revitalizes a tradition badly in need of it. No forced wisecracks here, no sour, self-involved attitudinizing: this is hardboiled crime fiction made fresh again. Ike will have you thinking of Sam Spade, and you’ll love him for it.