HELLBOX by Bill Pronzini
A few years have passed since Bill Pronzini penned a Nameless Detective novel that really pushed his hero into a truly personal danger zone, but he doesn’t pull any punches in his latest release, Hellbox. Nameless’s wife, Kerry Wade, gets kidnapped and Nameless turns the world inside out looking for her.
Lately, the books have been divided basically into three different stories that all play out in pretty much the same time frames. This book strays from that kind of storytelling to a degree. There are actually four different points of view in the novel this time out, but they all center on the same events, the same mystery: Kerry’s kidnapping.
I like the way Pronzini is having his character age, though more slowly these days it seems, and I enjoy the everyday problems he deals with. This one kind of threw me off for a while because it reads more like a suspense novel. There’s no real mystery here, no suspects, nothing for the reader to guess at and no clues to search for.
Truthfully, I missed the mystery. I missed following along as Nameless and his partners performed investigations. This was a suspense novel, and I was certain all the way through that Nameless would be successful and the reset button for the world would get hit.
As a result, the mystery I’d hoped for was missing in action, and the search for Kerry tended to go on too long for my taste. In fact, there’s a couple times that Pronzini seems to bait the reader, snatching away the rescue at the last second in a way that became somewhat infuriating to me. I know the point of these books a lot of the time is to show private investigation as it truly is, complete with all the laws and hoops real PIs have to jump through.
A lot of the time the book seemed to circle the same events and deliberately prolongs the investigation. Not a lot of new information go introduced along the way. As always, the prose is extremely readable and the characters feel very real, but I want to see a detective in action on a case. Nameless’s search for his missing wife is touching and engaging, but not what I was hoping for.