DANCING BEAR by James Crumley


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As with Crumley's last moody mystery, The Last Good Kiss (1978), this even danker outing will only hold readers who are won over by the dubious charms of a strung-out narrator/sleuth/anti-hero. This time it's Montana's ""Milo"" Milodragovitch, a cynical (yet quasi-noble) type whose malaise is perhaps a mite overdone: both parents were suicides; Milo's been divorced five times; he's fending off alcoholic depths with schnapps; he's obsessed with his beloved cocaine habit; he's nearing age 52, when he'll finally, ambivalently inherit his father's sizable estate. And Milo's miseries escalate when he takes on a job for an old rich woman who (just out of curiosity) wants to know what's going on between a man and woman who meet in a park near her house. Milo trails the man, sees him get blown up; people start trying to kill Milo; the old woman disappears (kidnapped?); the gnarled, sluggish trail leads to Seattle, a gorgeous journalist (one of several quickie-sex encounters), an Indian reservation, a red-herring about poaching. . . and a shoot-out with the corporate/government villains behind illegal toxic dumping. (Plus: equally nasty words for the ecology fanatics who set Milo up.) Again, Crumley's gritty talent surfaces on nearly every page--but the plot is enervating, Milo's a boor with pretensions (""I have learned some things. Modern life is warfare without end""), and only a fraction of the hard-boiled readership will be steadily engaged.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1983
Publisher: Random House