The Nameless Detective is clearly starting to feel his age in this one. The gritty, rundown parts of the city are starting to depress him. So are the seedy and hopeless people he often has to deal with. This particular case involves the senseless and brutal murder of a homeless man named Spook. But instead of handling the case himself, as he has done for many years, Nameless has now enlisted the help of two assistants.
One of his helpers is an assertive and streetwise black woman named Tamara who has become a full partner in Nameless's detective agency. In keeping with Tamara's promotion, several sections of the book are now seen through Tamara's eyes exclusively. Nameless has also hired an assistant named Jake Runyon, whose personal problems are reminiscent of the problems that Nameless himself has experienced in the past. Runyon, too, now has several sections of the book turned over to him.
This is a somewhat startling change from previous Nameless novels, which were told through a first-person narrator who refused to reveal his own name. That meant everything that happened in previous novels was seen through the eyes and mind of this anonymous detective. Not so with this one.
Like his other Nameless novels, however, Pronzini's hand is still the guiding force behind this long-lived series. And once again, he has filled the story with an interesting assortment of colorful characters with names like Pinkeye, Big Dog, and Lightfoot. He also includes a black classical cellist named Horace. And speaking of names, one of the surprises in this story is that Pronzini finally, subtly, and quietly reveals the name of Nameless.
Typical of Pronzini's other novels, Spook has a number of interesting subplots that always add unexpected twists and turns to the story. One of the subplots in Spook includes both Nameless and another P.I. named Sharon McCone. What's interesting is that Sharon McCone is the lead character in another popular detective series, this one written by Pronzini's own real-life wife, Marcia Muller. So in this instance we have two fictional characters from two different P.I. series, and they're both working together on the same fictional case. It's kind of like having the Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy working together to solve a bank heist.
Pronzini is clearly one of the old-time masters of the hard-boiled P.I. genre. All of his characters are exceptionally well drawn, real, and true-to-life. His descriptions are brief, stark, and easy to visualize. And his well-structured, solid, and suspenseful framework will keep you turning the pages, long after you should have turned out the light.
The saddest part of Spook is the realization that an excellent series is coming to an end. Don't miss this one. It's still Pronzini at his best.