OBEDIENCE by Joseph Hansen

OBEDIENCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Now over 60, Dave Brandstetter (Fadeout, Death Claims, etc.) is quite famous-only half-plausibly--for his insurance-shamus work; and he's newly retired. But a plea from the San Pedro County Public Defender's office promptly lures Dave back into action. Surly, bigoted Vietnam vet Andy Flanagan--one of many poor-ish people living on houseboats at the Old Fleet marina--has been arrested for the murder of the marina-owner, Vietnamese importer Le Van Minh, who was about to evict all the ""boat people."" Public defender Tracy Davis, however, is sure that Andy (her halfbrother) didn't do it. So Dave starts looking into other possible motives for the killing of Mr. Le. Is it connected, for instance, to the recent restaurant-massacre of four other rich Vietnamese businessmen? Or to the mysterious death (in his sleep) of Mr. Le's poet-son? Or to shady goings-on at Mr. Le's warehouse? (Heroin-smuggling, Customs Dept. corruption.) Mr. Le's family, too, teems with dark secrets; even a pretty young houseguest from France seems tragic and tense. And following Dave's every move is a nasty Vietnamese drug-lord and his Uzi-bearing ""doll-boy"" henchmen. Hansen's leanly stylish narration once again balances Dave's brooding inquiries and observations with regular jolts of action: there are several near-fatal encounters in ominous warehouse/harbor surroundings. The close-ups of Vietnamese culture and the character-sketches (e.g., a bisexual black mime who's a witness to murder) are often intriguiing. Finally, however, this is one of the least compelling Brandstetter casebooks--with a contrived, overloaded plot (heavy on melodramatic red herrings) and few moments when Dave himself (still blissfully mated with young black TV-newsman Cecil) fully registers as the grave, wry, quietly commanding figure of vintage Hansen.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 1988
Publisher: Mysterious Press--dist. by Ballantine