SWEET WOMEN LIE by Loren D. Estleman


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A rogue spy and three wily women nearly wear the treads off Amos Walker's gumshoes in this tenth, tangled outing by the Detroit shamus. The spy--CIA assassin William Sahara, who hires Walker to help him disappear from the Company into a new life--proves the catalyst for lots of bloody fisticuffs and noisy gunplay, the sort of macho action that colorized Estleman's customarily chiaroscuro-like prose in Silent Thunder (1989). But the most volatile reactions in this high-temperature tale bubble between Walker and three femmes fatales who spin in Sahara's crooked orbit: Gall Hope, the aging starlet who introduces Walker to Sahara in a most mendacious way; Edie Hibbard, unfaithful girlfriend to Herbert Pingree, a hapless freshman sleuth lethally caught up in Sahara's scheming; and Catherine, Walker's ex-wife, now married to Sahara but sleeping with, unwittingly, a second CIA hit-man, one sent by the Company to ice Sahara--whose real game, Walker learns, is to sell to the highest bidder a list of American deep-cover agents. Fueled by rage over the luckless Pingree's murder, Walker sniffs after the killer amongst the crowd of sharply drawn characters. The culprit proves no surprise to him--or to the reader; but what does astonish the p.i. is the depth of deceit to which the three ""sweet women"" plunge in order to preserve their self-involved lives: deceit that, with a vengeance-driven Gall Hope at its center, is more than a match for any spy-lies that Saham and his cohorts throw Walker's way. Dizzyingly complex, requiring many closing pages of plot exposition; and the harsh spy-vs.-spy stuff ill-suits the low-key Walker. But, as always, Estleman's expert pacing, stylish writing, and somber sense of place and character--every dive, every face tinged with tragedy--raise this above the average, and occasionally into the sublime.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1990
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin