If you have not yet read any Nameless novels, I strongly suggest that you read Hoodwink, Shackles, Quarry, and Illusions before this one. Although this is a standalone book, it works better in the context of Nameless's character development. Most people who read only this book will probably rate it at four stars because there isn't as much mystery as in most procedurally focused stories. The character development is quite significant though, and needs some background to appreciate. Read no further if you have not yet read those books.
BoobyTrap is quite different from the usual Nameless Detective novel. Nameless has no client and is simply looking for some rest and relaxation while his new wife, Kerry Wade, is away on business in Houston.
The book's development is also unique in the series. The story is dually narrated through the notebooks of newly released felon, Donald Michael Latimer, and through Nameless himself. In addition, you know who the criminal is, what crimes have been done and which are contemplated from near the beginning.
So the book becomes a study in how Nameless stumbles onto the danger and deals with it. As such, it's a fine look at detection . . . and its weaknesses. Those who have enjoyed any of the prior Nameless fans will find this offbeat entry an interesting variation on the series.
Nameless is almost 60 now and recovering emotionally from the rocky experiences in Shackles and Illusions. He's enjoying his new marriage to Kerry Wade, but she's still awfully busy with her work at the advertising agency. The two were scheduled for a romantic vacation in Baja California when Kerry has to cancel due to an opportunity to woo a new client for her firm. At odds and ends, she suggests that Nameless go fishing. No one is available to go now, but a friend hooks him up with a mutual acquaintance, San Francisco assistant D.A. Pat Dixon who arranges for Nameless to enjoy a free week at a neighbor's cabin in the high Sierras. Because Dixon is held up on a case, Nameless offers to drive Dixon's family up so they can start their vacation early.
In the background, recently paroled bomber Donald Michael Latimer has decided that he wants revenge against all those who helped put him in prison . . . including the judge, the prosecutors and his ex-wife. And Pat Dixon was one of those prosecutors. The diabolical nature of Latimer's desire for revenge is one of the main attractions of this story. Echoes of the Unabomber will float through your head as you read this taut story.
Fans of the Nameless mystique will be fascinated by his reaction to the fishing opportunity and his past actions (especially in Quarry). You also get a brief peek at the first name that shows up every so often in these novels that refers to Nameless.
Mr. Pronzini's fans will chuckle over the dedication to this book: "For Sharon McCone, Who promises to keep me in the manner to which I'd like to become accustomed." If you didn't realize it, Mr. Pronzini's wife is Marcia Muller, Sharon McCone's creator.
As I finished the novel, I found myself thinking about when killing is ever justified . . . and how effective punishment really is. I suspect that I will be haunted by this story for months to come.