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Walker's notable debut, A Dime to Dance By (1983), featured tough dialogue, nitty-gritty atmosphere, and just the fight touch of humor--in a George V. Higgins-like tale of legalities and leverage; here, those same talents help to smooth the way, but they can't disguise the fact that this is an only so-so hard-boiled-shamus caper--heavy on the drawn-out convolutions. The narrator-sleuth is wry, dour Hector Gronig of San Francisco, who' s hired by one ""Nicholas Glenn"" to snap photos of Mrs. Glenn in adulterous motel action. But once Hector has the roll of film as requested, all hell breaks loose--and nothing is quite what it seems. Assorted people try, with varied levels of success, to steal the film--roughing up Gronig's office and person in the process. Someone fire-bombs that motel, killing an innocent bystander. ""Nicholas Glenn"" turns out to be Ferrell Dumont, disinherited son of a rich, swinish S.F. strip-joint tycoon--and a would-be blackmailer; the man in the motel-photos turns out to be the leader of a local cult; both of them turn up dead in the next few days; the woman in the motel-pix turns out to be Ferrell's young stepmother--and then she disappears. And so it goes, through a largely familiar plot-web, as Hector moves in and out of assorted sordid neighborhoods, broods over his estranged wife (who catches him in bed with a tattooed woman), and eventually comes up with a credible, unexciting two-tier solution for all the mayhem. Briskly narrated, smartly peopled--but just-okay fare for hard-boiled mavens, and more than a little disappointing for fans of A Dime to Dance By.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1985
Publisher: Harper & Row