Nightcrawlers: A Nameless Detective Novel Hardcover – Feb 10 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The fast-paced latest in the longest-running PI series currently published shows Pronzini at the top of his form. Nameless's beat is the mean streets of San Francisco—but it's a vastly different city from the one inhabited by Sam Spade and the Continental Op. Gay-bashers seeking a thrill brutally beat a young man ("The crack of bone breaking damn near gave him a hard-on") and stalk gay lovers in the Castro district. Enter three seasoned investigators: Jake Runyon, Tamara and "Bill" (Nameless finally has a first name). When Jake learns that the young man attacked was his son's lover, he takes on the case—on his own time and without pay, vowing to beat the night crawlers on their own turf. Pronzini handles the two main story lines and multiple, shifting points of view with aplomb while unsentimentally exploring violence against gays with understatement, righteous indignation and genuine pathos. The author's legendary pulp-collecting nameless investigator shines in a number of affecting scenes in which he visits a famed pulp writer, Russ Dancer, who's dying of cirrhosis and emphysema in a Redwood City hospital. Pronzini just doesn't get better than this.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The "Nameless" detective is doing his best to settle into semiretirement after making his longtime assistant, Tamara Corbin, a partner in the agency and adding Jake Runyon, a former cop, as a field operative. However, some cases require Nameless' attention. Thugs are roaming the streets of San Francisco's Castro district, attacking gay men. Runyon's son's lover is one of the thug's victims, prompting Runyon and Nameless to investigate. Meanwhile Tamara, on a routine surveillance of a credit deadbeat, sees her subject carry something into his house that raises the hair on the back of her neck. The long-running Nameless series continues to evolve. With the novels no longer exclusively first-person narratives by Nameless, parallel plotlines have been introduced from multiple points of view, giving readers a chance to view Nameless as others see him. And, as always, the novels are never just about crime. Each of the three principals--and even the bad guys--deal with the family issues that have defined them. Another excellent entry in an outstanding series. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Nightcrawlers is one in a long line of Bill Pronzini's popular Nameless detective series, and now I understand why it's so successful. As usual, I'm late to the party when it comes to reading well known authors, but I absolutely love Pronzini's style. He builds story, character, and suspense by using all P.I.s' points of view (only Nameless is told in first person), and it works terrifically well.
Even if I hadn't heard about Pronzini's many books and accolades, the first few pages reveal a gifted writer who knows what he's doing. Now I'll have to go back to the beginning and find out how the series began. It should be great fun.
After dark, the slimiest people crawl out from under the rocks where they hide from the daylight to indulge in dark dreams and visions that involve savaging the others. Nightcrawlers displays, tracks, and squashes four such types of human vermin in a noir novel that will remind many of the 1930s California detective stories.
Nightcrawlers continues with Nameless in a detective agency with young partner, Tamara Corbin, who is tired of computer hacking and yearns for field work while missing her cello-playing lover and Jake Runyan who is burnt out from losing his wife to cancer and his son to his first wife's hate. They have moved to South Park in San Francisco, and Nameless is having trouble remembering to head for the new office.
In a prologue, we are introduced to two young men who like to batter homosexuals after getting high on drugs and an obsessed man who is looking for a little girl who looks like Angie. All the characters will loom large in the main story.
A call from Jake's estranged son, Joshua, puts Jake into the middle of trying to stop the homosexual beatings. But will Jake find more than Joshua bargained for?
Tamara has a lead on a deadbeat dad and does two nights of surveillance without success. But she does spot something that doesn't seem right and looks into it.
Nameless gets a call to see Russ Dancer, a hack writer who appears in two earlier books, and is asked to deliver a mysterious package to Nameless's mother-in-law, Cybil.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I particularly like the very diverse group of characters portrayed, both in the agency and as bit players. The dialogue and interaction ring true, the storyline flows wonderfully, and there's just enough of an `Oh!' factor at the end. You kind of see the ending coming, but not soon enough to spoil the surprise. Honestly, I think it would appeal to both cozy and hard-bitten crime buffs, and I'll almost certainly end up reading more.
Well. You can't get much further from X-Files territory. Nightcrawlers is basically a compilation of stories from the Nameless detective agency, blended together. Russ Dancer, a dying hack author, has commissioned Nameless (I'm still not quite sure where the whole 'Nameless' bit came about - his name is Bill) to carry out his last wish - to give a mysterious package to an old flame. Investigator Jake Runyon tries to help his estranged son, after his son's partner is a victim of a brutal gay-bashing. And Nameless's workaholic junior partner, Tamara Corbin, stumbles onto a kidnapping while on a stakeout.
Pronzini has plenty of experience in his genre, and it shows. The themes are dark and gritty, and his writing is tight and focused. The three main characters are well-drawn, if not particularly distinctive, or unfortunately, even memorable (except for maybe Nameless). The book kind of stumbles along until Tamara disappears, and Nameless slides out of the background and comes front and center. Many of the supporting characters are stereotypes, and dialogue intended to establish characterization often doesn't ring true. And coming in to the series so late, I had a little trouble keeping track of who was who and what was going on for the first couple of chapters. Pronzini alternates his main protagonists point of view, abruptly switching between plotlines from chapter to chapter. It's handled as smoothly as possible and I don't really see a better way around it, but the device still slows the narrative. Each time I got interested in one of the stories, I was yanked away and thrust back into the middle of another, until they all verged together about halfway through the book.
There aren't many authors who manage to create a character for one novel, or over the course of a short series; much less successfully sustain the series over the course of three or four decades. Lawrence Block and his Matt Scudder series come to mind... and that's not a bad comparison, in the way Nameless has grown and evolved over the course of 35 years. But even with the disturbing subject matter he's working with here, Pronzini can't quite build up the dark and disturbing atmosphere that's the hallmark of the Scudder books. That's not an interest killer though, because the events that unfold (at least in this installment) are even more realistic as written in such a straightforward manner.
All in all, even with a little nitpicking, I was pretty impressed. Enough to go back to the beginning, and learn more about Nameless and his associates.
This is a troika of stories. Tamara Corbin, who has grown into the putative 'head' of the Detective Agency but lacks the field bacground of Bill and Runyon, gets involved with the kidnapping of a 6-year old girl that she inadvertantly stumbles upon while surveilling an adjacent house for a child support skip-trace.
Bill, 'Nameless,' answers the plea of a man dying of cirrhosis only to be asked to deliver a package to his mother-in-law with whom the man had some relationship years earlier. This sends the family into turmoil, not surprisingly for everyone but Bill, who is left chagrined and confused. Come on Bill. What did you expect?
Jake Runyon continues to deal with the rejection of his gay son and investigates a series of gay bashings in the Castro District of San Francisco, all the while mourning the death of his wife, Colleen.
All in all the dialogue is crisp and very real, quite good actually, almost a throwback to the days of Chandler and Spillane, but the plots lack the riveting aspect of say "The Innocent" or "Velocity" by Coben and Koontz. Like Scotch, Prinzoni is an acquired taste. 4 stars. Larry Scantlebury