Kuhlken revisits the Hickey family in a tale as sensitive and heartfelt as it is action-packed.
The often violent, paradoxically principled Tom Hickey debuted in 1991, when Kuhlken won St. Martin’s Best First Private Eye Novel award, for The Loud Adios. Lying fallow hasn’t hurt the Hickeys, who’ve only become more introspective and complex. World War II is now ancient history, and Tom, though still vital and charismatic, has yielded center stage to his son Clifford, who loves and admires the old man without the least desire to emulate him. Clifford’s a musician, or maybe a lawyer—he hasn’t decided yet. One August day in 1972, while still betwixt and between, he shows up in tiny Evergreen, Calif., to find himself in the middle of a small war. Local hippies want to grow and keep their marijuana crop; marauding bikers want to grab and market it big-time. Meanwhile, the local sheriff likes Alvaro Hickey, Clifford’s stormy petrel brother, for killing the nephew of one of his deputies. Clifford thinks it’s a frame-up. So does Tom, when he arrives in response to Clifford’s SOS. Or do they? What it always boils down to, from the Hickeys’ dark perspective, is that everyone is capable of anything.
Crime, punishment and redemption. Kuhlken’s sixth (The Angel Gang, 1994, etc.) is by far his best.