Wednesday, September 04, 2013

NEMESIS by Bill Pronzini

Nemesis is the 38th novel—say that aloud and it sounds even more impressive—featuring Bill Pronzini’s Nameless Detective.  It is also an excellent entry in the series.  Jake Runyon, a long time operative of Nameless’s detective agency, takes an extortion job.  The client is a woman named Verity Daniels; Ms Daniels received a sizable inheritance from an uncle, and a crude caller is demanding $10,000 in exchange for keeping evidence of a felony from the police. 

Ms Daniels hires Jake to find the blackmailer, and she insists there is nothing in her past that would send her to jail.  Runyon finds it odd the client doesn’t want the police involved, but goes about his business in his usual competent and professional manner.  But when Ms Daniels fails to record two telephone calls from the extortionist, and then the blackmailer doesn’t turn up at the money drop, Jake’s suspicions are piqued.
Nemesis is a beautifully written and executed novel.  It is told in three distinct sections and voices; each is narrated by a different character with Nameless appearing, and taking over the action, in the third scene.  The mystery is a slow roll, and it is cleverly plotted (and paced) to keep the reader uneasy.  The reader knows something isn’t right about the set-up from early on, but it is difficult to guess exactly what Ms Daniels’ game is, and how it is going to play out.

The prose is Mr Pronzini’s usual; simply put, flawlessly smooth, and at times, almost beautiful—

“There was no way I was going to spend another day hanging and rattling in the city, going through motions, waiting for something to happen.”

The story is unusual, shockingly simple—a simplicity only a true artist can create—and highly entertaining.  In short, Nemesis may be the 38th novel to feature Nameless, but it is anything but a tired and bland retread.  Instead it is an entry that makes the series seem new and alive, and I hope it isn’t the last.   

Purchase a copy on Amazon.

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