POISON BLONDE by Loren Estleman
Loren Estleman and his Detroit private eye Amos Walker are longtime favorites of mine. Like the Nameless Detective series, I’ve got a history with these books and I look forward to each new one that comes out. For a while there, due to an interesting story in itself, there were no new Amos Walker books for years. But the tough private eye is back with a vengeance these days, and most of those he’s not taking any prisoners.
Where Pronzini occupies himself and his character more with the cerebral aspects of detective work, Amos Walker and Estleman prowl on the dark side of the streets in a struggling metropolis filled with broken dreams and sharp-edged lust and desperate murderers. Walker is at home there, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
This novel is different in some ways than the rest of the series. Gilia Cristobal, the client who hires Walker to find out who’s blackmailing her, could have stepped right out of an MTV video. Estleman surprised me with how much he knew about the industry and how closely the music business tied in with criminal enterprise. Of course, given much of rap music’s headlines in the news, that isn’t such a stretch these days.
Gilia was an interesting character and had more depth than I had expected in the book. Her Central American roots provided even more of an exotic flavor to the story, as did the “Lincoln Question.” I enjoyed the exposure to that background, and Walker took on a different aspect when dealing with paparazzi and hardcases. Still Walker style, though.
But the thing that struck me most is how Walker/Estleman feels about Detroit. The city is currently on hard times, like much of the United States, but the stand the character and the author take makes that much more touching. Neither of them have given up on Detroit, but the city is never going to be the same again.
The overall mystery is pretty good. Walker has a lot to do while shuffling through clues and trying to stay out of the way of the Matador, a past enemy with bad blood between them. But the best aspect of this novel is the dialogue, the patter Walker keeps up with everyone he deals with. Some of the lines drew an outright chuckle from me as I was turning pages, and others stayed in my mind long after I’d finished the book. I’d figured out who the killer was, but I hadn’t seen how everything was going to play out in the final scenes.
Poison Blonde is a great read for fans of the series, and it’s not a bad jumping on point for anyone who’s never read an Amos Walker novel.