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The standout story in 1985's Best Mystery and Suspense Stories of the Year was Lawrence Block's ""By the Dawn's Early Light."" Block then turned that story into a disappointing 1986 novel, When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. Likewise, a standout story in 1986's Best (1986, p. 1250)--""Ride the Lightning,"" an Edgar-winner--is here expanded into a thin, creaky novel, thanks to the addition of extraneous subplots, clumsy red herrings, and slow-paced repetition. Lutz's somber St. Louis shamus, Alo Nudger, is hired by comely, pathetic young Candy Ann Adams to reinvestigate the liquor-store holdup/murder for which Candy Ann's boyfriend, Curtis Colt, is about to be electrocuted (""riding the lightning""). Candy Ann is convinced that Curtis is innocent--despite four eyewitnesses who identified him as the robber-killer. So, though himself skeptical, Nudger interviews those witnesses again, then talks to Curtis' lawyer, to his odd brothers, and to Curtis himself (who won't deny his guilt). And eventually, after Candy Ann produces a new eyewitness out of the blue, Nudger is convinced at last that the man on Death Row is not the real murderer. The final twist here--a solid surprise in the story--now seems feebly strained. The padding throughout is obvious, especially the soggy emphasis on Nudger's bumpy affair with independent Claudia. So discerning readers will want to stick with the original, shapely version, while others might find this a passable, moody addition to the uneven Nudger series.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 1987
Publisher: St. Martin's