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P.I.

Infernal Angels, Loren D. Estleman, Forge, $24.99.

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The voice of experience should be a basso profundo, like Tennessee Ernie Ford’s. Instead it’s a mealy little whisper, like the teller’s at a window informing you your account’s overdrawn.

Some writers (and no doubt their editors) feel the need to begin a book with an ostentatious bang, something along the lines of a graphic torture killing or a dramatic explosion. True masters like Loren D. Estleman know how to ease into a narrative, gradually turning up the heat until things are at an irresistible boiling point.

In Infernal Angels, Amos Walker’s latest case begins prosaically enough when a sympathetic cop steers him to a case that wouldn’t be worth his time if his time was actually worth anything. Someone has stolen twenty-five HDTV converter boxes from a guy who specializes in stuff old enough to need conversion. Since the Detroit Police department lacks the resources to pursue anything short of homicide, it’s up to Amos to shake down the area’s fences – a wheelchair bound former scrap thief turned scrap dealer, a desperate ex-rapper staring down a murder beef, and the widow of a shady kingpin. All three play a part as it becomes apparent that someone else is looking for the boxes, someone who prefers to kill with their bare hands.

The ferocious murders and the mysterious contents of the boxes bring down the full weight of the authorities, who hamper Amos almost as much as the bad guys, including his sexy, intimidating federal foil Mary Ann Thaler, as well as the usual antagonists in Detroit law enforcement. From there on Amos is off and running, or rather limping, given the lingering leg injury incurred in Nicotine Kiss. The whole thing climaxes in a tense showdown in abandoned Tigers Stadium, with the appearance of a nightmare from the past and a Maltese Falcon-worthy wrap up.

At this point in his illustrious career Estleman is like a championship boxer. He makes it all look so easy – a few witty jabs, super sweet word combinations and a powerful, socko wind-up and before you know it you’re at the last page, knocked out by one of his books again. (Jamie)

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