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Book Review: Infernal Angels

A hard-boiled detective uses his hard-earned experience to solve a Motor City mystery

The real star of the hunt for the converter-box con artist, of course, is Amos Walker himself. It’s fun to follow him around Motown in his vintage muscle car (a 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass), sometimes blundering, occasionally getting beat up, always antagonizing whoever gives him lip. In the process Walker blurts out a boatload of comebacks and one-liners, all neatly balanced by the author so as not to cloy — or clog the action. Watch Walker handle a shopkeeper wary of telling him the name of a suspicious neighborhood kid:

Her smile grew doubtful. “Are you with the police?”

“I’m not against them.”

Explaining one of the many occupational health hazards of his line of work, Walker remarks: The leg always lets me know when a solstice is coming. If you’d rather get that from a calendar, duck the next time someone shoots at you.”

And here’s Walker debating whether to divulge certain case details to some Detroit cops: “I made a mental note to tip them off the next time I was near an anonymous pay phone, right after they tracked one down and told me where it was.” Walker’s disinclination to help out the local cops stems from some prior run-ins with a Lieutenant Hornet, who would like nothing better than to run Walker in for meddling in official police business.

Endurance and perseverance have been hallmarks of Estleman’s long writing career. He has crafted more than 65 novels since 1976, picking up four Shamus Awards for his mysteries and short stories (and eight awards for his Westerns) along the way. His latest Amos Walker caper reinforces Estleman’s skill at original plotting and lively dialogue, but it’s his crusty protagonist who leaves you longing for more.

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