on 31 October 2011
Loren D. Estelman has another Amos Walker book out, and it's almost as good as The Left-Handed Dollar. This novel, Infernal Angels, has that same hard-boiled Detroit atmosphere that litters all of Estelman's books, making for a quick but satisfying read.
It all starts with a late-night quest for coffee. Walker's out of it and goes to the local Walgreens for some more. A cop friend who's staking out the store gives him a tip on some stolen cable converter boxes, which seems like a quick and easy way for Walker to bring in some money. Little does he know that said boxes will soon involve him with the seedier side of Detroit as well as become a national security issue. It also brings in some old friends. The next time Walker runs out of coffee, he may just go back to bed.
Infernal Angels finds Walker torn in three different directions by representatives of law enforcement, and it's fun watching him interact with all of them, occasionally playing them off of one another. Jurisdiction battles are quite common in police novels, but it's interesting to see one from an outsider's point of view.
As usual, Estelman's dialogue is top-notch. Walker quips his way through danger when the going gets too rough. The interplay between the cops, the Feds, and Walker is also excellent. The best example, though, is the conversations between Walker and the various fences where he begins the investigation of the converter boxes.
The characters in Infernal Angels are just as interesting and quirky as ever too. There's Eugenia Pappas, wife of a now-dead criminal, who appears to be trying to take his business legitimate, though she isn't keeping an eye on the people around her. She thinks she can buy her way into Heaven in other ways than just living a virtuous life.
Bud Lite is a musician under investigation for the murder of his producer in Guam, and he now runs a music store which might also be a front for where those converter boxes may have been taken. All of the characters have their quirks, but none of them are one-dimensional.
Estleman renders the story well, moving from the small potatoes of stolen converter boxes into something else that will put Walker in mortal danger, not to mention causing him some more injuries. Yet there are a few slow spots in the book--not good, since it's a fairly short book to begin with.
One other oddity is the long foot-chase in the middle, which not only slows the book down further but also doesn't make a lot of sense. Walker was shot in the leg a few books ago, still limping and taking Vicodin for the pain (as is mentioned numerous times in Infernal Angels), yet he's able to perform an extended chase on foot with somebody who appears to be really fast?
Even with those minor problems, Infernal Angels is a fun read that will bring joy to any fan of the genre.
Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book © Dave Roy, 2011
"Now a certain man found him, and there he was, wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying, 'What are you seeking?'" -- Genesis 37:15 (NKJV)
Infernal Angels is a very odd offering in the Amos Walker series: a chance meeting with a policeman leads to a three-day job to find a few stolen TV converter boxes. I suppose that Loren D. Estleman meant that opening to be odd and offbeat, but ultimately it doesn't quite make sense. A little broader premise would have made the opening a lot stronger. As usual, Walker is soon surrounded by corpses so the need to investigate starts to make more sense, even if the opening does seem a little forced.
What does ring true, however, are most of the references to leg pain and the scummy sources of information for tracking down such a crime. The leg pain writing is undercut by turning Walker into a runner. Now, really?
The plot ultimately has some twists and turns that will probably surprise you. I was reminded of some of "The Red Headed League" in some ways . . . as an unlikely beginning connected to an unexpected conclusion.
Should you read the book? Probably. But it's certainly one of the weaker entries in the series.