The well-known science fiction and fantasy author (Reave the Just, 1999, etc.) dons a trenchcoat for what might be the beginning of a hard-boiled detective series.
Ex-cop turned private eye Mick “Brew” Axbrewder is a big, brawling type loaded with the standard mean-street demons. On the wagon because he mistakenly shot and killed his cop brother after having one too many, Brew is currently holed up in a fictional Sun Belt city with girlfriend and fellow p.i. Ginny Fistoulari, who recently had her left hand cut off by a bad guy. Their relationship falls apart when Ginny, now equipped with a prosthetic device, gets a job with a local detective agency by jumping into bed with the agency's yuppie-slime owner. Forced to pay the rent, Brew is referred by Ginny's new lover to Anson Sternway, an American martial arts instructor who just might be stalking his estranged wife. Sternway hires Brew as plainclothes security to help guard a collection of valuable martial arts artifacts on display at his weekend tournament in a local hotel. This gives Brew too much time to mingle with various international masters, most of them holding each other in murderous contempt, and to ask naive questions about the martial arts. All their explanations, laced with Donaldson's lame Spillaneries (“her skirt called attention to the way her body swelled and dwindled in all the right places”), just about stop the plot dead. Things pick up when Brew foils a gang of pickpockets, only to find a corpse cooling in a hotel men’s room. To catch the perp and recover the stolen artifacts, Brew must penetrate the tediously divisive local martial arts subculture and even learn some moves that eventually help him dislodge the chip on his shoulder, battle the killer, and make nice with Ginny.
Clichéd, chop-soggy whodunit that might be tough love for fans of Donaldson's Thomas Covenant and Gap Into Power series.