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    Review of MOURNERS by Bill Pronzini

    Forge, March 2006

    It isn't much of a case. James Troxell has been acting strangely and his wife asks the nameless detective to help out. What the nameless detective discovers is not the usual affair. Instead, Troxell seems to be into some sort of mourning--visiting the funerals of young women killed in accidents or murder. Nameless wonders if the man might be a killer himself, or whether he saw something that he can't deal with. When he learns that the man walked into a murder scene as a child, he suspects the latter.

    When Nameless's associate, Jake Runyon follows Troxell to a graveyard, he's struck by the woman he sees there. She's the dead woman's sister, but she reminds Runyon of his own dead wife. Runyon has been running from life ever since his wife's death and feels compelled to help the sister come to terms with her loss. When he and Nameless learn that Troxell's behavior seems related to witnessing the abduction that led to the sister's death, Runyon vows to take on the case--even without payment.

    Meanwhile, Nameless's wife is dealing (or not dealing) with her own sense of mortality and Nameless's other associate, Tamara, has just lost her longtime boyfriend.

    In MOURNERS, author Bill Pronzini (see more reviews of novels by Pronzini) views a city filled with people getting by, barely surviving as they mourn the many losses of their lives. Although Troxell is dealing with his grief less well than the others, none is doing well. In every case, the destructiveness of their grief extends far beyond the person grieving. Indeed, the internal damage is far less than what they do to those around them. Mourning becomes a form of contagion, creating disaster and mourning in expanding circles. No matter how hard Nameless and the others work to head things off, their actions seem only to accelerate the negative impact of mourning.

    MOURNERS is anything but a feel-good book. Despair rather than hope seems the theme--and the mourning leaves no one whole. For me, the mourning made the detectives were doing their sleuthing in a sort of underwater slow motion sort of way. Although Pronzini's writing is professional and engaging, the book felt more as if Pronzini were working through his own problems rather than telling a story meant for the rest of us. Still, there is something compelling here and MOURNERS is a hard book to put down.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 5/09/06

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