A SMILE ON THE FACE OF THE TIGER by Loren D. Estleman (see his website)
AN AMOS WALKER NOVEL
The Mysterious Press, August 2000
Private Detective Amos Walker agrees to do a favor for a friend--he'll track down an old writer and find out why he returned her advance. It seems like a straight-forward enough job but, the deeper Walker digs, the more something doesn't smell right. Of course, the first trick is to find Eugene Booth, the author who stopped writing decades before. Old friends and Booth's books themselves give him the clues he needs.
Walker peels away onion-like layers to find Booth, then to find the secret to his writing. Booth was driven by a 1940s race riot in Detroit with its questionable heros, mob influence, and the murder of his Booth's wife. He is literally afraid to write more or even to allow his old novels be reprinted. When Booth ends up dead and an ex-mob hit man was seen in the same motel, Walker is compelled to continue the investigation.
A SMILE ON THE FACE OF THE TIGER is a compelling mystery. Amos Walker is the prototypical hard-case detective. When the police had investigated Booth's wife's murder, they decided she was stepping out on Booth and didn't bother looking very hard. They also hadn't bothered looking behind the superficial in investigating the race riots. Walker may not be a policeman, but he is driven by a sense of justice--something the character would almost certainly deny if he could be asked.
Loren D. Estleman (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Estleman) writes convincingly of people trying to create morality in an ambiguous world. Both his characters and his descriptions seem real and add a gritty texture to the novel. In the best sense possible, Estleman and his protagonist Amos Walker are reminiscent of the classic hard-boiled detectives of the 1930s, but with an even more approachable style.
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