Hellbox, by Bill Pronzini (2012)

Genre: Mystery
Interest Level: Adult
HellboxIf you have followed this blog for a while, you know that Bill Pronzini is one of my favourite authors – certainly my top choice, followed closely by his wife Marcia Muller, for adult mysteries. This is entry number 37 in the incredible Nameless Detective series, a San Francisco detective in the beloved tradition of hard-boiled private investigators – a loner, an alcoholic, a stubborn believer in right versus wrong, in good over evil, and who has been beat up and bruised as much by life as by the evildoers he pursues. Over the years, we`ve watched Nameless gain control over his drinking, fall in love, and learn to trust in others. It`s that amazing character development that makes this series so astonishing. At this point in the series, we know him as Bill. Now in his 60s, he and Kerry are contemplating a second home. They`ve found a candidate in the Sierras, about three hours east of the city, where they decide to spend a few days on a well-earned vacation to be certain of the decision. Pronzini drops hints that perhaps they should reconsider – a junk shop that claims to sell antiques, an untrustworthy fishing map, and an outburst by locals in a small cafe. They brush it off, and return to the cabin where Bill takes off to try the fishing map, and Kerry goes for a walk in the woods. She never returns. The reader knows what happened, and Pronzini uses multiple viewpoints to advance the plot along – Bill in first person, and then third-person for Kerry, the perpetrator, and another investigator who works with Bill. It works well enough, though I found too much is revealed through internal dialogue. I love Bill`s character and wanted more. It also felt very much like a retelling of an earlier plot in which Bill himself was held captive. But the plotting and characterization remain first-rate, and the tension builds relentlessly, making this an engrossing entry in the series, if not the best. Pronzini`s books will have you cringing with shame and horror at the actions of your fellow humans, but ultimately this series is one of hope and justice. I`m still a fan.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13087679


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