Hellbox Hardcover – Jul 3 2012
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“Can doing first-rate work as consistently as Pronzini really be as effortless as he makes it seem?” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review on Camouflage
“The Nameless series continues to be a wonder of great plotting, long-term character development, and insight into the chilling banality of evil.” ―Booklist, starred review on Camouflage
“Pronzini is a pro at PI Fiction: he never cheats on the reader, respecting the conventions of the hard-boiled detective stories and puzzle mysteries he employs so well.” ―Library Journal on Schemers
“Pronzini's crisp and wry style gives the latest installment of the Nameless series page-turning flair.” ―RT Book Reviews on Schemers
About the Author
BILL PRONZINI has been nominated for, or won, every prize offered to crime fiction writers, including the 2008 Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. It is no wonder, then, that Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine said of him: "Complexity of characterization, puzzle, and theme support the case for Pronzini as the finest American detective novelist in current practice." He lives and writes in California, with his wife, the crime novelist Marcia Muller.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Kerry and Bill are off looking into buying a retreat when Kerry stumbles into a revenge-obsessed man, Pete Balfour. He takes her prisoner, and the suspense begins. I won't comment much about the book's content because it might spoil the story for you.
Do be aware that this is not a classic mystery of the sort that Bill Pronzini usually writes ... or the kind that he has written most recently in the series.
I didn't like it as much as I usually do. I think that's because I didn't find Pete Balfour to be a very interesting character. He's certainly a bad guy ... but I need something more than that to get full emotional enjoyment from a suspense novel. He didn't quite come across as a real person, rather than as a fictional character, to me.
The book has some nice character development work in it, something to admire.
I hope that the next book in the series will go back into having several mysteries to solve ... rather than just chronicle an investigation.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The central character is Pete Balfour, who has to be one of the most offensive fictional characters that I have encountered. He's a cowardly mean slob who beats his wife. He has no friends. Everybody he knows despises him. An insensitive man calls him a demeaning name. This epithet is quite offensive. It's one we have all heard and most of us, I am sure, have, on occasion, been on the receiving end of this insult. But not to the extent suffered by Pete Balfour. The whole (small rural northern California) town starts calling him this name, mocking him without mercy.
Balfour is outraged and he plots revenge against the man who started it all. Along comes a retired San Francisco detective and his wife to the area, planning to buy a cabin for a second home. They have never met Balfour, but they definitely do meet him in the course of this novel.
This is the first book that I have read by Bill Pronzini. He writes in a steady, clear manner. He has a good sense of humor. He has done his homework on the subject of human nature.
Forge, Jul 3 2012, $24.99
In California, the somewhat retired "named" detective Bill and his public relations specialist wife Kerry seek a second home in Green Valley at the Sierra foothills. Near Six Pines they find the perfect cabin.
While hiking in the nearby woods by herself, Kerry recognizes Pete Balfour, an angry individual seeking revenge against the bully whose taunting made him the biggest fool in the Sierras. When she calls out his name, a stunned panicked Pete abducts the one person who can identify him being in the area. The local authorities insist they are busy with a major investigation so knowing time is critical a frustrated and frightened Bill and his San Francisco partner Jake Runyon follow meager clues that lead to the Hellbox.
The latest (no longer) Nameless Detective Mystery (see Camouflage) is an exciting thriller in which readers feel Bill's panic as the long time sleuth (37 books) knows the first few hours matter in an abduction. Although the storyline never veers from its anticipated path and the climax disappointing as Balfour fails to live up to his image of a raging berserker, series fans will enjoy the desperate investigation by Bill and Jake in which the townsfolk either are uncooperative or neutral.
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.
It is an uncomplicated plot, unlike other novels in the series which are pretty much basic police procedurals. There is little character development, although we get a good look into Bill's psyche and his emotional attachment to Kerry. As far as the other major character, Balfour, he appears as just a wooden portrait, and any description of him as a personality is merely to provide information that he's just an evil person.
Readers have become accustomed to hard-boiled detective stories, with mysteries that are to be solved by hard slogging, research and deep undercover work by Nameless and his team. Obviously, "Hellbox" is an exception, although the intensity of the writing remains at the same high level of the author's previous efforts. But it just ain't the same, even though it is a fairly good read, and one can recommend it on that basis.
The tension mounts as Nameless searches for his missing wife and he eventually calls in co-worker Jake Runyon to canvas the small town and try to get some help from the local authorities who refuse to believe that Kerry has been abducted.
Even readers who haven't established a long term relationship with Nameless, Kerry, and Runyon, as I have, will care for these sharply drawn characters. You'll care about everyone's problems. You'll care about who lives and who dies. This one is more of a suspense thriller than his usual who-dunit, and the tension slowly builds, swelling to an almost unbearable ending.
It reminded me of SHACKLES, an earlier book by Mr. Pronzini, and to my mind one of the best private eye novels ever written. He even refers to it in the novel since the events in HELLBOX take place near those of SHACKLES.
I can't recall ever being disappointed by Nameless, and this one is another winner.