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Burns, author of the distinguished Gabe Wager police-procedurals (The Alvarez Journal, Strip Search, etc.), uses his Denver locale for a private-eye mystery this time--with disappointing, heavy-handed results. Young narrator-hero Devlin Kirk--law-school dropout, ex-cop, ex-Secret Service agent, haunted by his father's recent suicide--has finally gotten a big case for his new detective-partnership with ex-cop Homer ""Bunch"" Bunchcroft: they're hired by millionaire developer McAllister to investigate the theft of $200 million worth of industrial secrets. The prime suspect: Austin Haas, one of McAllister's division directors. So Devlin and Bunch start an elaborate, invisible stakeout of Haas--who renders things moot by promptly committing suicide. But Devlin stays on the case when Haas' widow (a vulnerable, appealing looker) asks him to find out whether or not her husband was a thief. The sleuths soon find lots of evidence that Haas did indeed sell his company's secrets to a rival. But why is Haas' secretary (who believed that the suicide was faked) then murdered? And who tries to kill Devlin, critically injuring Bunch's girlfriend? The detective, distracted by his tender, slow-burning affair with the widow Haas, takes just short of forever to arrive at the answers--which many readers (certainly those familiar with certain hard-boiled clichÉs) will have seen approaching for at least 100 pages. As always, Burns' prose is literate, the backgrounds effectively moody. And Bunch has potential as a comic foil. But, weighed down by Devlin's internal musings on ethics, corruption, and suicide, this is a ponderous, obvious morality-play, without the vivid street-wisdom and rich characterizations that enliven Gabe Wager's somber investigations.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Viking