A juiceless Chandler-Macdonald rehash raises the dread question: Are Estleman’s best days retro?
You’ve probably never heard of Beryl Garnet, but in her time she was quite a big-name brothel-keeper. Now that she’s dying, she wants Amos Walker to deliver her ashes to the son she hasn’t heard from since Priapus was a pup. Locating him may be a problem, the once gaudy bawd acknowledges, but the gig’s worth it. As it happens, the delivery job is simple. Delwayne Garnet has been living openly in Canada for umpteen years, ever since he ducked out to avoid serving in Vietnam. Amos delivers the ashes, all right, but is now forestalled by the complicated part. Though avowedly unimpressed by the outer Amos—“You’re pretty independent for a man in a J.C. Penney Suit,” he tells the shamus—Delwayne employs him to find his father’s murderer. Before Amos can do that, however, Delwayne himself is offed, killed by a bullet from the same gun that killed his dad 53 years ago. After a smidge of ratiocination, a couple of obligatory beatings, dollops of verbal tilting with thick-headed thugs and outclassed cops, and a bout of endemic Weltschmerz, Amos finally closes the case.
After 17 mostly sterling outings (Poison Blonde, 2003, etc.), Amos has earned his place in the Shamus Hall of Fame. But when cutting-edge dialogue dulls to yadda yadda, it may be time to hang up the gumshoes.