Kinsmen, by Bill Pronzini (2012)

Genre: Mystery
Interest Level: Adult
KinsmenAnother mystery set in Northern California by the award-winning Bill Pronzini, author of The Other Side of Silence and approximately 35 titles in the Nameless Detective series. In this novella (under 200 pages with big print in this edition), originally written in the early 1990s, Nameless is hired to find out what happened to Allison Shay, a college student travelling home with her boyfriend from Eugene, Oregon to the San Francisco Bay area. They never made it. Nameless heads to northeast California, where they were last seen. He finds a nasty little town full of nasty little people, and slowly but surely uncovers the nasty truth, earning a few bumps in the process, to his body and his soul. This isn’t as good as Other Side of Silence, and it jars for me to return to Nameless’ story nearly 20 years after it was written. There are references that make no sense now (for instance, a character who is no longer alive), and the story is unintentionally historical. Remember phone booths? Nameless is always looking for a working one. The plotline also feels dated, like a pair of wide-legged jeans. The character development is thin, and the whole story feels like Pronzini wrote it in a snit against this corner of California. Not his best, in my view, and unfathomable as to why it was released as a hardback novella. Fans of the series can skip it, and those new to his work should ignore it and start with something that better reveals the astonishing writer he can be.
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