This collection of the complete shorter works (1967–89) featuring San Francisco’s Daniel Kearny Agency, repo men (and women) extraordinaire, demonstrates convincingly how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. In fact, Gores’s unusually detailed introduction and headnotes root both the twelve individual stories and the private-eye procedural genre they invented so firmly in the realities of his own work in skip-tracing and auto repossession that the first two tales seem barely fictionalized at all. But by the third story, with its briskly evoked carnival setting and its unexpected sympathy for the fleeing embezzler, Gores has hit his stride. Subsequent adventures of the DKA are all over the map. The perps range from a vengeful gypsy to a Dominican nun, the vehicles the agency’s assigned to recover from a fire engine to a hearse, the moods from the trancelike calm of “Beyond the Shadow” (a puzzle story that pays off in a particularly handsome surprise) to the rollicking gaiety of “The O’Bannon Blarney File.” Yet each one contrives to mingle vivid backgrounds, authentic procedural detail, the cleverness of the Kearny regulars—maverick Larry Ballard, ex-boxer Bart Heslip, eternally sozzled Patrick O’Bannon, brainy Giselle Marc—and soap-opera outtakes from the saga that’s continued from Dead Skip (1972) through Contract Null and Void (1996), with another installment due later this year.
Best of all, the DKA files remind you that one reason detective stories are so much fun to read is because detective work itself can be so much fun to do.