Camouflage (Nameless Detective Mysteries)
by Bill Pronzini
Cover Artist: Images: Shutterstock
Review by Cathy Green
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765325648
Date: 07 June 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Camouflage, the latest Nameless Detective book from Bill Pronzini, takes place soon after the events of Betrayers . This time around, Nameless's fee paying case and Jake Runyon's personal matter take up the bulk of the book, with Tamara strictly in a support role after her prominent and dramatic personal investigation in the last book.
Nameless is trying to locate the first ex-wife of the not very nice David Virden. Virden is engaged to a very wealthy and very Catholic woman who wants to be married in the Church, which will involve Virden converting and annulling his three previous marriages. Nameless therefore needs to locate Roxanne Lorraine McManus and have her sign certain church documents, since Virden doesn't want to deal with her himself.
Given her unusual name, Tamara figures she'll have no trouble locating Ms. McManus via the various databases to which she has access. Being old fashioned and a bit of a Luddite, Nameless is happy to leave the computer sleuthing to her, and Tamara soon provides him with a location in San Francisco. Roxanne McManus is running a dog boarding business called Canine Customers in the Dogpatch section of the city. So Nameless goes out to talk to her and she informs him that she won't sign the papers, wants nothing to do with her ex-husband and doesn't want him bothering her again. Nameless informs Virden of his failure to get the papers signed and the location of Virden's ex-wife. Virden decides the personal approach is required, since he's not about to pass up his fiancé's considerable fortune.
Soon Nameless is the recipient of an angry phone call from Virden insisting that the woman is not his ex-wife, Nameless is a fraud, he's stopping the check and he's planning to sue. Virden disappears shortly thereafter and his fiancé asks Nameless to find Virden. Nameless and Tamara both come to the conclusion that there was nothing flawed about her computer research and therefore come to the conclusion that the fake Roxanne McManus must have stolen the real one's identity. They also come to the more disturbing conclusion that given the lack of any information about the real Roxanne McManus, there's a distinct possibility that the fake Roxanne has done away with the real Roxanne. Because the fake Roxanne has seen Nameless and Tamara is taking a break from working in the field, Nameless brings in independent contract investigator Alex Chavez to do the legwork, which soon reveals that the fake Roxanne and her partner are very bad indeed.
Meanwhile, Jake Runyon is handling a personal matter for his girlfriend Bryn, who suspects that her ex-husband is physically abusing their son Bobby. Jake has a “man to man” talk with Bobby and discovers it's not his father but his step-mother Francine who is abusing him. Everyone seems to like Francine, who presents as the perfect wife, but Jake's investigation into her past turns up a significant number of former friends and family members who are afraid of her because she could turn on a dime from being very nice to a foul-mouthed abusive psycho. No one who has seen Francine's dark side is willing to testify against her because none of them want to get on her bad side again. Then Francine is murdered, Bobby is nearly catatonic and Bryn is arrested. Thanks to Nameless, Jake is able to get Bryn a good attorney, and he sets out to do his own investigation into what happened since the police are happy to stop looking now that they've arrested Bryn.
In both Nameless and Jake's cases, the book title acts as the main theme. Fake Roxanne is wearing the real Roxanne's identity as camouflage, and Francine's public persona camouflaged her true psychotic nature. Both cases resolve satisfactorily after some twists and turns and investigative footwork. While Tamara's role is diminished, especially compared to Betrayers, this allows Pronzini to spend time developing the Alex Chavez character, who may very well become a full time agency employee in the next book in the series.
Despite being “semi-retired,” Nameless has been spending his retirement working full time at his agency. This time he might really be willing to let go a bit and actually semi-retire, since he's even talking to his wife Kerry about buying a cabin in the country so they can get away from the city on a regular basis. Assuming Pronzini has Nameless really mean it about working part time, it will be interesting to see what direction the series will take. Will Nameless become like Nero Wolf directing his employees from his cabin, leaving the legwork behind and solving the cases based on the reports they bring to him? An éminence grise that the others consult for advice but no longer involved in the day to day activity?
Camouflage is a solid entry in the Nameless Detective series. It works as a stand alone mystery, although it will make more sense if the reader has at least read the last two or three books in the series, especially Betrayers, but it is not necessary to have read all thirty-four previous novels in the series.