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Spook: A 'Nameless Detective' Novel [Hardcover]

Bill Pronzini
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 25 2002
Roll out the red carpet. Uncap a bottle of decent beer. Nameless is back, and Bill Pronzini’s much-praised Bleeders did not conclude a series that Booklist calls "a stunning and unique achievement in crime fiction" and "one of the greatest-ever detective series." Instead, in Spook, the pivotal new twenty-eighth novel in the remarkably successful award-winning Nameless series, Pronzini, working at the top of his form, takes his seasoned private-eye hero to a new phase of a still-evolving thirty-year career. Shaken after a hair’s-breadth escape from death, Nameless has made changes in his professional life, but he’s not put himself out to pasture. Again he enters San Francisco’s shadowy underworld, this time in a search for the identity of a gentle, mentally disturbed homeless man who has been found dead in an alley doorway. Clues are few, but eventually they bring the Nameless Detective to the small California town that drove the nameless victim tragically to murder and madness.

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Deaths among the homeless don't usually provoke background probes. But when a transient known as Spook (because "he had ghosts living inside his head") is shot outside the offices of a San Francisco film-industry supplier, employees there want to know why. "He didn't have a mean bone in his body," one staffer assures Bill Pronzini's Nameless Detective in Spook. So was this just the random slaying of a street crazy, or had someone from Spook's unknown past--maybe Dot or Luke, the apparitions he was always jabbering to--finally come gunning for him?

In Nameless' 28th novel-length outing, but his first since the pivotal Bleeders (in which he almost hung up his gumshoes for good), Pronzini's classically wrought sleuth is preparing for semiretirement, turning over responsibilities to his young PI partner, Tamara Corbin. He's also breaking in a new investigator, reserved ex-cop and widower Jake Runyon, to whom he hands off the identity search--little knowing how quickly that case will turn ugly, linking the "gentle, friendly" Spook to the murder of another homeless man and a long-ago triple homicide in the California Sierras. Meanwhile, Nameless finishes up a high-profile dig into questionable practices among city employees. This secondary plot lacks the intrigue of Runyon's task; however, both investigations generate action, including a hostage situation and a not-so-merry chase during a Christmas benefit. More than two decades after this series' initial installment, The Snatch, Nameless's assignments have become less conventional, and he's been mellowed by age, marriage, and too much death. Yet, even at age 61, he's more vital than many newer, less deservedly cynical competitors. --J. Kingston Pierce

From Publishers Weekly

Hints of the Nameless Detective's death or forced retirement in his last book, Bleeders (2002), turn out to be premature. (He isn't all that nameless, either-everyone calls him Bill. Could his last name be an Italian one ending in "ini"?) Nameless is slowing down, though, while the central plot of this 28th book in the honored series is one or two twists short of exciting. Hired by a San Francisco filmmaker to discover the identity of a gentle, spook-haunted homeless man shot to death in the production company's doorway where he camped out at night, Nameless spends far too many pages doing just that and far too few offering alternative possibilities for the murder other than the glaringly obvious one: realistic, maybe, but certainly not riveting. Perhaps building a foundation for a series without Nameless, who talks often about "semi-retirement" as he approaches 60, Pronzini gives his hero's young partner, Tamara Corbin, more to do this time out. Unfortunately, it mostly involves being nasty to her family and associates after hitting a speed bump in the road of love. A new addition to the agency staff, Jake Runyon, a seasoned Seattle investigator trying to connect with a lost son, is more appealing here. Three-time Shamus Award-winner Pronzini can still capture the sleazy underside of San Francisco's glitz as quickly and as well as anyone, so, Nameless lives-at least for one more book.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Polished and humane entry in the quality series June 18 2004
Format:Hardcover
Bill Pronzini has in the Nameless Detective created a fihure who unlike many similar series protagonists ages as the series progresses and in this book he is 61 years old and on the verge of semi-retirement .To this end he and his streetwise young black partner Tamara engage another operative ,the troubled Jake Runyon .Runyan is still in a state of depression following the death through cancer of his second wife and has returned to San Francisco to try and rebuild a relationship with his gay son from whom he is estranged .
The man case concerns the death of a harmless street person ,Spook ,who is murdered in the entryway to a low rent film company whose proproetor engages the agency to trace his identity .
The bulk of the investigative work is undertaken by Runyan who , after encounters with the more violent and psychotic aspects of the homeless world ,in thr form of the vicious " Big Dog " traces the origins of the killing to an incident some 20 years previously in which 3 people were gunnned down in a remote Clifornia town .This not only points up the true identity of the deceased Spook but enables his slayer to be traced .
This is polished and proficient in its unravelling but is not the only starnd to the book -there is a sub -plot which sees Nameless co-operating with Sharon McCone ( a creation of the authors wife ,Marcia Muller ) in acase exposing City corruption .
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Nameless Detective Acquires a New Op Sept. 16 2003
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Seldom does a wonderful series like that of the Nameless Detective suddenly add an exciting character who makes you anxious for the next book. If you've liked any of the books in this series, you must read this one . . . because it is the beginning of much potential for the future.
Nameless is back (and called "Bill"). He's in the process of moving towards retirement . . . beginning with semi-retirement. To facilitate the changes, he's taken his former assistant, Tamara, as his partner. They need to hire a new operative to help handle the street work that Nameless did in the past. After considering two potential men, Tamara insists that they hire Jake Runyon, a silent-as-the-grave ex-cop, ex-detective who looks like he's just lost his last friend.
Jake turns out to be the kind of dandy character that Raymond Chandler would have been glad to write about. He loves the grime of the streets and the challenge of the chase. He's smart, tough, focused and self-contained. But he hurts, and his work is his therapy. You'll enjoy learning about him.
The action in the book centers on the murder of a street person named Spook who talks to ghosts. I especially enjoyed the way that several people contributed to identifying Spook. It's imaginative problem solving at its best.
Each of the detectives has personal issues that develop in interesting ways. Bill is having trouble deciding how to wind down his work and deal with his need to be a lone wolf. Tamara is shaken to the core when her boyfriend decides to move to Philadelphia and proposes marriage. Jake is looking to make a connection with his estranged son while grieving for his lost love.
I don't want to say any more because the prose and story line are so smooth and balanced.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great way to start the new year Jan. 22 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
What better way to start 2003 off than with a brand new Nameless Detective novel, especially since we all thought his last book was the end of the series. In "Spook", Nameless, along with his soon-to-be partner Tamara and new field operative Jake Runyon, are trying to track down the identity of a murdered homeless man. Interspersed throughout the story are personal episodes of all three main characters. Nameless, one of the world's most socially shy butterflies, is persuaded to attend a Christmas charity event with of all people his old friend Sharon McCone and in the bargain saves her from losing a case. Tamara is faced with a huge decision: her boyfriend is pressuring her to marry him and move back east but she isn't sure she wants to give up a job she loves. Jake is still brooding over the death of his wife and the antagonism of his son. All this gives a new and warm twist to the usual Nameless books. To further add to the twist, Nameless's real name is slipped into the story several times! "Spook" is one of Pronzini's best!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Spook Jan. 19 2003
Format:Hardcover
"Spook" is a very special novel to me. I had thought that Pronzini's last novel, "Bleeders", might have been his last "Nameless Detective" novel. Bill Pronzini is my favorite mystery writer working today, and I rejoiced when I found out that this wonderful series is continuing. Some changes have occcured in Nameless' agency. He has made his assistant, Tamara Corbin, his partner, and they have hired former Seattle cop Jake Runyon to do much of the leg work for the agency. Most of the novel is told by Nameless in the first person as always, but several chapters in which Tamara or Jake Runyon are featured are told in the third person. Pronzini makes this style work wonderfully. Steve Taradash hires the agency to find out the identity of a homeless man who was murdered outside his business. This man is known on the street as Spook, and he "talks" to people named Dot, Luke, and Mr. Snow. Jake Runyon does most of the leg work in Mono County, and finds out some very interesting facts. The reader learns about the private lives on both Tamara and Jake Runyon. I also enjoyed reading about Emily, the adopted daughter of Nameless and his wife Kerry. Sharon McCone, Marcia Muller's character, makes an appearance. Marcia Muller is Bill Pronzini's wife. "Spook" is highly recommended!
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