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Crazybone [Hardcover]

Bill Pronzini
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1 2000 A Nameless Detective novel
Posh and affluent, a mecca for the horsy set, the California community of Greenwood hides its dirty laundry behind the stuccoed facades of Spanish-style houses and locks its secrets inside wrought-iron gates. Nameless knows that as well as 7 any, but he uncovers more deceit, adultery, fraud, and betrayal -- not to mention larceny and murder -- than he might have expected in this tautly concocted novel of crime and detection.Yet, even before Nameless visits the handsomely appointed offices of the blond, tanned insurance agent Rich Twining and the estate of the recently widowed Sheila Hunter, his private investigator's suspicions are raised. For why would anyone, however rich and beautiful and bereaved, refuse to claim fifty thousand dollars due in life insurance? The question is simple enough, but the answer lies several murders, many miles, ten years, a devious name game, and one baffling clue -- crazybone -- away.As always, Nameless proves himself the thinking man's detective (Chicago Sun-Times), and his creator, Bill Pronzini, keeps the suspenseful pages turning up to this uncanny novel's moment of revelation.

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From Amazon

Author Bill Pronzini's series PI, known only as "Nameless," has gotten older, grayer, and wiser since he made his first appearance in print. But this case, his 26th, is a first of sorts: a widow who turns down the $50,000 payout from a life insurance policy on her husband, who died in a straightforward enough highway accident caused by a drunk driver. There's nothing fishy about the circumstances of Jack Hunter's death, but something odd turns up when the protagonist looks into Hunter's life: it seems to have started only a decade ago. Sheila Hunter, whose background is equally obscured, is not only not talking, she's deathly afraid. And the only clue Nameless has to go on is one word uttered by the widow before she clams up: "Crazybone."

It's not until the method employed in a series of murders long buried in the Hunters' past is revealed that the meaning of the word (and the title) becomes clear. But before that happens, the couple's 10-year-old daughter convinces the detective that there's more to the story than Sheila Hunter's surprising lack of interest in collecting the money due her--and steals his heart as well. Pronzini is a master craftsman, and his series hero doesn't need a name to make readers accompany him willingly as he steers a moral course through the affluent California setting of his novels. The ending has a small surprise that bodes well for the author's next book; until then, his extensive backlist should keep new "Nameless" fans entertained. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

Pronzini is a pro. His Nameless Detective is a characterful narrator, and the northern California settings, here as always, are splendidly realized. This time out an insurance company hires Nameless to check into why Sheila Hunter, a glamorous widow with a small daughter, declined to accept the payout on her late husband's sudden accidental death policy. It turns out that Sheila has her own very good reasons for wanting to remain as anonymous as possible. What to do with her appealing little girl seems her main concern. Nameless finds himself involved more deeply than he wants to be when the woman disappears and the child has no one else to turn to. Meanwhile, the elderly neighbor of his feisty mother-in-law dies mysteriously at their retirement home, and what can he do about that? Needless to say, Nameless solves both crimes, though the subplot seems a little perfunctory. The great pleasure here is the voice: civilized, thoughtful, a tad cranky. Nameless is a keen observer of his fellow man (and woman)Aand by no means someone given to false heroics. He can be funny without being mean or silly (a drunken party scene is priceless) and never fails to play fair with the reader. It's a strong collection of virtues that has carried him through some two dozen expert thrillers, to which this is a fine addition. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars EARLY DAYS? Jan. 25 2013
By little lady blue TOP 100 REVIEWER
The first of the' Nameless detective' story series came out in 1971 so I have come to this later than most. I started with "Schemers" (2009) & "Camouflage" (2011) both of which I so enjoyed I went looking for more.

Clearly Mr. Pronzini has come a long way since his early days because this one from 2000, the 26th in the series, is nothing like the 2009 & 2011 stories. Frankly, if it had been the first one I read I wouldn't have been interested in any others.

Where the later ones show a clever sharpness in the writing & composition, this earlier one is bogged down in unnecessary descriptions of people, places & things, even in what may very well be Mr. Pronzini's personal musings about the times. Chapter 7 in its entirety could have been omitted since it seemingly had nothing whatsoever to do with anything.

Even the `mystery' felt a little diluted. The child Emily was the one spark in this otherwise uninspiring, over-written addition to the series.

This disappointed me after the first two were so enjoyable. Strange, authors usually get washed-out the longer they stay with a series, in this case it seems to be the opposite.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right Nov. 25 2003
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Crazybone marks yet another important turning in the Nameless Detective series, a turning that is seldom seen in mystery fiction. Anyone who is a fan of the series should be sure to read this fine book.
If you have not read any other Nameless books, I suggest that you at least read Hoodwink, Double, Shackles and Hardcase before this one. Much of the pleasure of this book comes from the context of the series. You can enjoy Crazybone without that context, but it will be only a 3 star book if you lack the context. I have reviewed almost all of the books in the series (and tried to avoid spoilers) so feel free to look for those comments. The series begins with The Snatch and follows on in order with The Vanished, Undercurrent, Blowback, Twospot, Labyrinth, Hoodwink, Scattershot, Dragonfire, Bindlestiff, Casefile, Quicksilver, Nightshades, Double, Bones, Deadfall, Shackles, Jackpot, Breakdown, Quarry, Epitaphs, Demons, Hardcase, Spadework, Sentinels, Illusions, Boobytrap, Crazybone, Bleeders and Spook.
Any reader who thinks that most men are lecherous will find that this book mostly confirms their convictions.
As Nameless nears 60, he is becoming more crotchety and less in tune with what's going on. In some ways that's good. He's principled in a world in which many are not. On the other hand, he's also unable to open his assistant's computer to get a message. That's really weird to anyone who enjoys the online world.
In recent books, Mr. Pronzini has been adding more and more humor. In Crazybone, you will find one of the funniest descriptions of attending a spouse's company cocktail party that you can imagine. In the process, Nameless even acquires a name (not really his). It would be fun to see what Mr.
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3.0 out of 5 stars the john d mcdonald syndrome Sept. 6 2000
I've liked most all the "Nameless" series of the prolific Bill Pronzini, and as the character has aged and the circumstances of his own life become more prominent in the plots, have liked the books even more. His past problems with his partner made for surprising and tense books; his ongoing relationship with Kerry, his own aging, his life in Sanfrancisco are all of a texture that make all the books' generally limited plots enjoyable. Here the "mystery" is not much of one, the action of the search for a solution as to why an insurance settlement is refused is pretty predictable and the outcome summary; but the domestic part of the book, a young child drawn into Kerry and "Nameless'" life makes for real emotion. So, it's a good book, about the same as most in the series. But what is increasingly less enjoyable in these books (and those by several other writers) is what I call the Travis McGee/John D. McDonald syndrome: lots and lots of social comment, mostly bleak reflections on the decline of American culture into the abyss: lamentations on modern architecture, art, strip malls, juvenile behavior, and on and on. I suppose it's in part an attempt to give the books social substance. It may be a unconscious tribute to Raymond Chandler--but if it is that, it misses the point. Chandler observed the world around him; Nameless and kin are grumpy old curmudgeons, whining about what they don't have, have lost, or don't want. Nor do I like a lot of the emblems of the modern age that they skewer and resent, but muttering and mewling without humor, balance, or, really, relation to the plot at hand is at best distracting, at worst rather pathetic. These are thin books, quick reading; they needn't be so sour.
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When I started reading Bill Pronzini's Nameless Detective series earlier this year, 27 books seemed like an awful lot to plow through. When I finally finished "Crazybone," though, I wished there were 27 more! I feel like I know "Nameless" and Kerry better than some of my own relatives! Happily, "Crazybone" is one of the best entries in this series; I loved the subplot with Nameless' mother-in-law (author of a private eye series starring tough-guy detective Samuel Leatherman) trying to snoop into the suspicious death of one of her elderly neighbors. I heartily recommend going back to "The Snatch" and reading all 27 Nameless books in order; what a wonderful thing Bill Pronzini has accomplished by writing this series.
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