Wednesday, June 01, 2011
New Books: Camouflage by Bill Pronzini
Grand Master Bill Pronzini has never been better than in his new Nameless novel Camoutflage. Several novels ago Pronzini changed the format of his Nameless books, not only alternating between first and third person but also letting Nameless' detective agency two other folks share the spotlight as well.
Pronzini opens the book with an introduction to client David Virden, a smarmy much-married man who needs Nameless to locate his first wife so that he can have the marriage annulled. Huh? Yes, Virden is now in the arms of a rich woman who wants to be married in the Catholic Church, hence the need for an annulment. (I'll spare you my Church bashing here.) Nameless proceeds on the case only to find himself entangled in a nasty spiderweb of deceit and terror. Along with the page-turning mystery, Pronzini give us indelible portraits of the people around the suddenly-missing Virden. Pronzini has a perfect ear and eye for the modern fears and foibles of average folks. He records what he sees and hears with pity, anger, humor and the honorable melancholy that marks so much of his work.
His partner Jake Runyon's case is personal. His girlfriend Bryn has reason to believe that her ex-husband is abusing their son physically but the boy is unwilling to discuss it. Like the Virden matter, a series of twists and turns takes Runyon and the reader into a dark and deadly place. Pronzini deals with these modern dilemmas without any of the TV shrink cliches we've come to expect, freeing himself to deal with the real horrors of how some children suffer in our society.
As for Tamara, the agency's black computer wizard and backbone, she really shines here backgrounding the Virden case with information that proves vital to Nameless finally realizing what's really going on.
The writing itself is pure pleasure. Over the years Pronzini has whittled his style to the bone without losing any of its punch or power. But as always with Pronzini, style serves story. What a style. What a story. Grab this book fast.