Tuesday, September 04, 2007

HELP 9: Nicotine Kiss

I dawdled through Estleman's 2006 novel Nicotine Kiss over the long weekend, but finally finished it this morning. (I note that this book was published in hardcover in March of 2006, that the next book in the series has now been published, and that a paperback is not out nor obviously in the works, which is a bad sign.)

It opens with a bang: Amos Walker, our protagonist and a Michigan PI, is searching for a dead-beat husband on the first day of deer season, and finds him on the wrong end of a rifle. The deadbeat drops Walker with one shot, then eats the rifle himself, and Walker's leg -- and maybe his life -- is saved by an old acquaintance, cigarette smuggler Jeff Starzek.

Two months later,Walker is recuperating when he hears Starzek's name again: the smuggler's brother-in-law wants to hire Walker to find him. Walker soon discovers that he was the last one to see Starzek -- and that an agent from Homeland Security with a bottomless wallet of John Doe warrants is also very eager to see Starzek.

It goes on from there, with investigations into Starzek's past that (happily!) don't turn up any fifty-year-old murders in Canada for once, and what is essentially a monster truck-snowmobile race across a frozen lake. I found parts of this a bit implausible, and it seemed to wrap up more quickly than I expected, but it's another good entry in a fine hardboiled series.

But it's hard to miss that Walker is getting increasingly out of touch with the modern world, and I'd like to see that affect his cases more -- he doesn't use a computer or cellphone, and I'd expect many of his contacts for running license plates and Social Security numbers would have been retired or downsized by now. He's also getting older -- by my count, he should be solidly over 50, since he's a Vietnam vet and went there after four years of college -- and he sustains a major injury at the beginning of this book, so the physical stuff should become increasingly more difficult. (Joseph Hansen's Dave Brandstetter mysteries did a good job of realistically aging a hero, though Brandstetter wasn't usually physical in the old-fashioned way Walker is.) I'm not saying Walker can't be a tough guy in his 50s -- there are plenty of tough guys in their 50s -- but that a now-gimpy tough guy in his 50s might want to work on other methods if we wants to go on as he began...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"a now-gimpy tough guy in his 50s might want to work on other methods if we wants to go on as he began..."

I think it was Michael Collins who had a one-armed detective, apparently because the author (who used a million pseudonyms besides Collins) was intrigued by the idea of a guy for whom many of the standard PI moves were impossible.

As I recall, the PI lost the arm in some mundane childhood accident (Fell into the cargo hold of a ship during WWII, I think).

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