Tough, smart-mouthed, and unflappably in the tradition—that’s Art Hardin, a counter-intelligence officer from the Vietnam War era who’s currently earning his bread as a hardboiled Detroit shamus, and doing all right. A chance to do much better presents itself when he’s hired by Scott Palmer, boss tech-geek of Light and Energy Applications. Young Mr. Palmer, though “rich as a rajah,” is abjectly lovelorn. He needs Art to track down a woman he knew in college 15 years ago, a woman so special to him that he’s willing to pay anything to see her again. Although locating Anne Jones turns out to be Sleuthing 101, requiring merely a flex or two of some serious detecting muscles, nothing thereafter is remotely simple, from the murder of Anne to the backwards break-in at Art’s office—backwards because what matters is not what’s stolen but what’s left behind: a lurid collection of child pornography. Suddenly, Art finds himself suspected of perversion and murder, since the cops like him for the Anne Jones killing. The next thing you know, his license is pulled, and it’s soon clear that an array of indefatigable, highly professional hit men have named him their favorite target. There’s no option for a self-respecting flatfoot but to pound those mean streets until the real perps give it up.
Bailey, himself a retired p.i., imbues his second (after White Heat, not reviewed) with that reassuring been-there-done-that confidence, plus considerable style and brio.