SHACKLES, Bill Pronzini
This was the book that the most of you recommended when I asked which Namesless Detective book I should read first, and I could not be happier. It was a thrill ride of a book and a primer on how to write a crime novel without too much violence, but with a high quotient of excitement and suspense. I was won over by page one and sped through the book, which is unusual for me. I am especially drawn to this sort of story--where someone has to cope alone with a difficult circumstance. Where his ingenuity and fortitude allow his success.
The Nameless Detective is leaving his girlfriend's apartment when he is abducted by a man who speaks to him in a whisper. He is chloroformed and tied up for the very long car ride ahead of him. Here he is left in a primitive cabin in an icy terrain, shackled, with only enough food and warmth to survive for a few months. (I did chuckle that he is left with reading material). To a reader, to do less would be too cruel.
His captor refuses to divulge his reasons for the abduction, and in fact, only returns once to taunt him.
Months pass and the N.D. loses weight, wrestles with the reason for his imprisonment, and tries to build his body. He keeps a journal, trying to remain sane.
The second half of the book deals with his attempt to find his captor and take his revenge. Each step in this process is laid out as meticulously as his routines of the first half.
To repeat myself, there is no false step in this book. The method of escape is entirely plausible and you follow his tracks eagerly as he figures out who is behind it. I wish he had contacted his girlfriend immediately to tell her he was alive, but that is not the way of the N.D. Great book indeed.
Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad series of political crime fiction.
Bill Pronzini is not only a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, he's a Grand Master of the dark and sinister noir novel. He demonstrates this again in one of his finest (perhaps the finest) books in his long career.
Jay Macklin is a failed man. A career as a baseball player was ended early by injury. As were other attempts at establishing himself. His decade-plus marriage to Shelby was so solid and good for a long time but unemployment and heart trouble (the latter something she doesn't know about) have taken their toll. Shelby finds herself attracted to a doctor at the hospital where she works as a paramedic.
The novel brings Jay and Shelby together in an anxious attempt to find their old love and respect. They travel to a cottage in rugged Northern California only to meet Brian and Claire Lomax, a married couple who has even more problems than they do. They also become aware of a serial killer who has been traveling this same area. A power failure seems symbolic of their marriage's final days.
Pronzini has always been at his best dealing with smashed lives. HIs descriptions of violent weather and pitiless nature only enhance the emotional turbulence that make the drama so rich. Gripping, sinister, unpredictable, The Hidden is a masterful novel of treachery and terror by a true master of the form.
Joe Barone, MURDER DOWN UNDER, Arthur Upfield
Brain Busby, MANHANDLED, Russell Stringer, Arthur Holman
Bill Crider, OUR MAN IN WAHINGTON, Roy Hoopes
Martin Edwards, THE MURDERS OF MONTY, Richard Hull
Curt Evans, TEN PLUS ONE, Ed McBain
Elisabeth Grace Foley, MISS BUNCLE'S BOOK, D.E. Stevension
Jerry House, CAGES, Ed Gorman
Randy Johnson, THE OUTSIDER, Lou Cameron
Nick Jones, FROM HERE TO MATERNITY, Peter Rabe, and congrats to our friend.
George Kelley, THE EXECUTIONErS, John D. MacDonald
Margot Kinberg, FELLOWSHIP OF FEAR, Aaron Elkins
Rob Kitchin, BOGMAIL, Patrick McGinley
B.V. Lawson, THEORY AND PRACTICE OF CLASSIC DETECTIVE FICTION, ed. Delamater and Progyzy
Evan Lewis, GANGLAND'S DOOM, Frank Eisengruber, Jr.
Steve Lewis, SCATTERSHOT, Bill Pronzini
Todd Mason, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
Neer, THE LAST LABYRINTH, Arun Joshi
J.F. Norris, THE KIND MAN, Helen Nielsen
Richard Pangburn, THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE, Don Winslow
James Reasoner, HAWKE, Ted Bell
Gerard Saylor, PLUGGED, Eoin Colfer
Ron Scheer, THE TROLL GARDEN, Willa Cather
Michael Slind, THIN AIR, Howard Browne
Kerrie Smith, THE BROTHERS CRAFT, Peter Coris
Kevin Tipple, DYING VOICES, Bill Crider
TomCat, ZOMBIES OF THE GENE POOL. Sharyn McCrumb