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    CRAZYBONE by Bill Pronzini


    Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2000

    The latest in the "Nameless Detective" series has our PI hero investigating a strange insurance matter. A wealthy widow, Sheila Hunter, refuses to file a claim for the life insurance benefit that's due to her. Her husband was killed by a drunk driver--nothing peculiar about it. But her behavior is more than strange, especially her violent and totally inappropriate reaction to Nameless's perfectly innocent queries and his attempts to give her a legitimate fifty grand. Something has Sheila terrified.

    Intrigued--and fearing for Sheila's safety and that of her captivating 10-year-old daughter, Nameless stays on the case, quickly discovering Sheila isn't who she claims. The deeper he digs, the nastier the mystery becomes. Sheila disappears, another woman turns up dead, and it seems nobody is sleeping in their own bed in the ritzy, horsey community where Sheila lived.

    What makes this book rise above a standard mystery are the characters in the Nameless Detective's life--his irrepressible assistant, Tamara, his ambitious, intelligent, but compassionate wife, Kerrie, his cat, Shameless, and especially his mystery-writer mother-in-law, who co-stars in a secondary mystery of her own in this volume. The detective himself is utterly lovable--quaintly clueless about how to use a computer, yet competent when it comes to handling danger and protecting his loved ones. The story, too, is fresh and resonates with believability believable, fast-moving, well written, and the northern California setting is vividly recreated.

    This one is highly recommended, a quick read for a rainy afternoon or two. And like bon-bons, it's hard to consume just one Pronzini novel; I'll be searching my bookshelves as soon as I'm done writing this to see if I have any back titles of his I can re-read. (See more reviews of novels by Bill Pronzini)

    Four Stars

    Purchase CRAZYBONE from (available in hardback).