THE GLITTER DOME

More gross-out adventures, Wambaugh-style, at the L.A. Police Department—with a murder investigation in Hollywood and side-trips into narcotics, kiddy porn, massage parlors, transvestitism, and police brutality. Again, like The Choirboys, this is more a montage of grotesque/grim/comic vignettes than a novel. But the main focus is on two miserable mid-40s detectives assigned to "clear"—by fakery, if necessary—the strange Sunset Blvd. murder of movie-studio chief Nigel St. Claire: Al Mackey, who's alcoholic, suicidal, sloppy, much-divorced, recently impotent; and cool, neat Martin Welborn, who's suffering from a marital separation and haunted by two of his cases (the murder of an informer, a horrid child-mutilation). So Mackey and Welborn start sleuthing around the movie studio. But their main clues are soon coming instead from farcically coincidental cases pursued by other cop-teams. . . like vicious narcs "Ferret" and "Weasel" or sadistic "street monsters" Buckmore Phipps and Gibson Hand. And these clues—involving a hustler/model (a pseudo-naive Marine), a teenage-runaway hooker, and other sleazy types—suggest that St. Claire had teamed up with a mystery man (in a Bentley) to recruit actors for kiddy porn. . .or maybe even a snuff movie. Yes, Hollywood's foulness is the theme here—as becomes blatantly clear when Mackey and Welborn attend (undercover) a big movie-world party: the guests mix their "metaphors of sex and money like a horde of hookers"; Mackey winds up with a revolting masochist who demands that he handcuff her ("I'm helpless, you filthy gorilla of a rapist!"); and Welborn falls for an actress. . .whose career-over-love attitude will help edge him into suicide. Serious stuff. Unfortunately, however, Wambaugh's mixture of cartoon-violence, station-house satire (a blowhard captain named Woofer), and emotional matters doesn't quite work this time around; the alcoholic cop in The Black Marble was more engaging and tragic than either of the similarly burned-out basket cases here. And the mystery plot itself goes nowhere fast. Still, those who reveled in The Choirboys' neanderthal hijinks will probably not be disappointed (there are chases, practical jokes, and one really disgusting slapstick sequence). And even more discriminating readers—who'll be annoyed by the overkill, the messy plotting, and the jarring shifts in tone—will continue to be impressed by Wambaugh's pungent dialogue and garishly convincing details.

Pub Date: June 15, 1981

ISBN: 0553272594

Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1981

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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