Bill Pronzini,
(Forge, 2007)

Savages is another installment in Bill Pronzini's Nameless Detective series, called that because the lead detective's name is never divulged. The books typically take place in the San Francisco Bay area, and Savages is no exception.

In this one, there are actually two main storylines, with shifting protagonists and points of view. In one, the lead detective is hired by a former client, Celeste Ogden, to investigate the death of her sister, which the police ruled accidental. Celeste is adamant that her authoritarian, controlling, bullying, successful-businessman brother-in-law killed his wife, or had her killed, and disguised it as an accident. Can Nameless deliver the needed evidence?

In a completely separate plot, Jake Runyon, a lead investigator for Nameless, goes to serve a subpoena on a young man in a rural area and is the first to discover a murder victim on the farm where the young man and his family live. Jake gets bopped on the head with a 2-by-4 and winds up in the middle of not only a murder mystery, but also involved in the investigation of a series of arson cases, as well as a passel of small-town politics and feuds.

There are also two smaller storylines that get less attention. Nameless has a wife, Kerry, who is recovering from treatment for cancer, and we get to witness her striving to regain some sense of normalcy. Meanwhile, Tamara is the smart, somewhat acerbic office manager and investigator for Nameless, and she is recovering from a broken heart, as her long-time boyfriend, and possible future husband, has left her.

Bill Pronzini's writing is always crisp and action-packed, and Savages is another example of that. I have not read all of his Nameless Detective novels, nor have I been reading them in order, but this is the first one I have read with the multiple storylines and protagonists. He handles it well, and the reader really gets two good mysteries, as well as the personal subplots. It appears that Nameless might be edging toward retirement as a detective, and Jake Runyon makes for a very good focal character. By the way, I was surprised to see that Nameless is no longer entirely nameless; Jake Runyon divulges his first name. I will not reveal it here -- why spoil a good, decades-long mystery?

I am not sure if this is the best (semi-)Nameless Detective book, but it certainly ranks right up there among the half-dozen or so of these books I have read. It is definitely a good mystery-detective story, with just enough personal side-story to make every character seem quite real.

review by
Chris McCallister

16 May 2009

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new