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American Detective: An Amos Walker Novel (Amos Walker Mystery) Hardcover – April 3, 2007
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The 19th Amos Walker mystery (after 2006's Nicotine Kiss) confirms that Estleman's long-running contemporary hard-boiled hero deserves a place in the genre pantheon with such better-known figures as Raymond Chandler's classic gumshoe, Philip Marlowe, and Robert Parker's Boston PI, Spenser. Walker is hired by Darius Fuller, a legendary retired Detroit Tigers pitcher facing substantial financial pressure from the IRS. Fuller's daughter Deirdre is several weeks away from gaining access to her $2 million trust fund, and her father fears that her sleazy boyfriend, Hilary Bairn, is wooing her just to get her money. Before Walker can fulfill his assignment to attempt to bribe Bairn to back off, Deirdre is found dead in Bairn's apartment, a death that may be connected to a smuggling ring and a local gangster. Estleman's prose is as gritty and compelling as ever as he lets fly razor-sharp dialogue, brings the Motor City to life and combines a whodunit plot with traditional noir action. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Retired Tiger pitcher Darius Fuller was once the toast of Detroit. Three divorces and a couple of bad investments have left the former star with creditors nipping at his heels, but he had enough foresight to set up a $2 million trust fund for his daughter, Deidre. Now Deidre is about to marry Hilary Bairn, a shadowy figure on the fringe of Detroit's criminal subculture. Suspecting that the groom-to-be is interested mainly in the trust fund, Darius hires private investigator Amos Walker to present Bairn with a cash payoff as an inducement to back away from Deidre. When Walker shows up for a meet at Bairn's apartment, he is met by both the police and Deidre's cold body. Walker and the police embark on a race to find Bairn. Walker's search is complicated by the necessity of eluding crooked cops and organized crime, and both have motives for finding Bairn first. Estleman collects genre awards--four Shamus, five Golden Spurs, and three Western Heritage Awards among them--like Barry Bonds piles up homers. The nineteenth Walker case is among his best. The world-weary, cynical, first-person narration is perfect, and the plotting is tighter than a snare drum. The resolution is as twisted and painful as one would expect when an American detective looks deep into the heart of a shattered American dream. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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the streets with him. We see through the eyes of Amos, and we are there. So sorry to say, not a hint of that was present, in this flat novel, of many characters, not one, of which we could care a bit about.
This book was a great disappointment.
American Detective is the latest novel in the long-running Amos Walker series. Estleman writes Detroit, Michigan, like no one else, and Walker is a thoroughly believable blue collar private investigator of the old school. He's loyal and tough, and generally gets through a case based more on his indefatigable stubbornness rather than uncanny intellect or charm.
In American Detective, Walker is hired by ex-baseball pitcher Darius Fuller to break up the engagement between his daughter Deirdre and Hilary Bairn, a guy Fuller believes is after her two million dollar inheritance. It's not the kind of work Walker generally does, he's more of a bodyguard than a legbreaker, but he likes Fuller and agrees to lean on Bairn. Estleman does a really good job of building in Walker's motivation to take the case, one old warrior doing a good turn by another old warrior.
But the case takes some bad turns when Walker confirms that Bairn is bad news. As it turns out, Bairn has his finger in a lot of illegal pies, and he's doublecrossing some of the people he's in business with.
As usual, things get sticky quick for Walker and it isn't long before his small, cramped office and house end up filled with bad guys and cops wanting answers Walker would rather not give. The cops threaten indictment and the bad guys threaten physical damage. I really liked the dialogue between Walker and Elron, a hardcase in the employee of a known racketeer whose path crosses that of Walker.
Even more, I enjoyed the few scenes with the Asian madam in charge of a criminal empire. I would have loved to have seen more of her and her femme fatale Violet and hope that they make a return engagement at some time in the near future.
Walker's investigation takes a lot of twists and turns this time around. I was fascinated by the amount of criminal activities as well as the variations of them. The bit about the money machine as a way to collect bank information was awesome, and I haven't ever heard of that scheme before.
As usual, Estleman's first-person voice is great. Walker sounds like someone you know, not just a character on a page. I empathize with him a lot because he chooses to deal with life on his own two feet and accept the consequences. Also, he stays true to the people he makes deals with. Honesty and integrity are two of the best qualities you can find in a person, and Walker carries the scars of those burdens.
If you like the Robert B. Parker Spenser series but haven't tried Estleman, I urge you to. I love the Spenser novels, but Spenser always seems to find the right answer in the middle of being macho enough to handle everything. But I enjoy Estleman's take on blue collar sleuthing equally.
We all know about sports heroes . . . or do we? While they are on top, we read about the accomplishments, the records, and the contracts they sign. But no one is a sports hero forever. What's it like after that? American Detective gives us a poignant profile of one such fictional character, Darius Fuller who hadn't been such a good family man, at age sixty while his home's contents are auctioned off to pay back taxes to the IRS.
While his goods disappear, Fuller's heart is aching for his daughter, Deirdre (Dee-dee), who seems determined to marry Hilary Bairn. Dee-dee is about to come into over two million dollars from a trust fund, and Darius fears that Hilary is all about the money. Fuller hires Amos Walker to pay $50,000 he's hidden from the IRS if Bairn will disappear without marrying Dee-dee. Tapped out, Fuller gives Walker a World Series ring as collateral against Walker's fee.
Walker soon discovers that something is not right. Bairn gives Dee-dee a watch to pawn . . . and the pawn shop refuses the watch because it's hot. An unauthorized visit to Bairn's apartment yields a chilling clue tying Bairn to one of the most successful criminals in the area. Tracking down that lead makes it clear that Bairn has bigger money problems than Fuller does.
But Walker never gets to make his offer. A call to Bairn's apartment elicits an invitation to come over, but Walker finds the cops and a corpse rather than Bairn. Soon Walker is trying to keep his business with Fuller private while protecting the $50,000 for Fuller.
In classic detection style, Walker decides to become his own client after telling Fuller what had happened. Something is going on that needs to be stopped. From there, Walker meets some of the scummiest characters that you can imagine and gradually uncovers a decidedly evil empire.
In homage to Charlie Chan, the story reverses roles with the American detective tracking down a Korean-American's crimes. The title reference comes in a sequence between Walker and a beautiful Asian woman who tells Walker that he looks just like he stopped off the cover of American Detective, a reference to the pulp fiction era and its fictional detectives.
The plot is deliciously spiced with unexpected twists and turns. The villains are ones you'll be glad to hate. If you find a weakness in this story, it will probably be that there aren't enough innocents to identify with. Walker and justice are the center of this story. If you don't like either one, skip American Detective. If you like right versus wrong stories, you'll like this one.