Betrayers (Nameless Detective Mysteries)
by Bill Pronzini
Review by Cathy Green
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765318206
Date: 06 July 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Pronzini's latest Nameless detective novel, Betrayers, picks up fairly soon after the events in the previous Nameless book, Schemersl. Tamara is still furious and reeling from her disastrous affair with Lucas Zeller, who turned out to be on the down low, and decides to use her skills as a private investigator and the resources of the agency to find him. She soon finds out his name wasn't even Lucas Zeller, that it was an identity he stole. As she gets deeper into her investigation, she neglects her duties at the agency while uncovering a much larger scale fraud than she expected, involving the blackmail of prominent men on the down low. Meanwhile, Nameless handles a relatively straightforward case of a woman being harassed by phone calls, property damage and the poisoning of her cat and a somewhat less straightforward personal case involving his daughter Emily and a small box of drugs she found at school. Jake Runyon, the firms other investigator, tracks down a bail jumper for a bondsman who has done a decent amount of business with the firm over the years.
The Nameless detective's paying case for the firm involves Mrs. Abbott, who is suffering from hang up phone calls in the middle of the night, dug up rose bushes, broken windows, and a poisoned cat. Mrs. Abbott thinks it might be her late husband. Her neighbor, Mrs. Alvarez, and Nameless think it's more likely to be someone who wants to force her out of the house so that they can buy the house on the cheap and then sell it for a lot of money. This is a reasonable assumption to make given that Mrs. Abbott lost the house to developers in a tax seizure and then got it back in a bitterly contested court case in which she was represented pro bono.
Nameless wraps Mrs. Abbot's case up relatively quickly and then spends the rest of the book trying to figure out where Emily got the box with a small amount of cocaine that his wife Kerry found in Emily's room. Emily tells Kerry and Nameless that it is not hers, that she found it at school and she won't tell them who it belongs to. Nameless and Kerry believe Emily, because she's always been truthful with them, something I found to be somewhat unrealistic, and Nameless sets out, off the books, to find whoever is endangering his daughter.
Jake Runyon is trying to find a bail jumper, a meth addict named Troy Madison who keeps falling off the wagon. Melikian, the bondsman, wants Jake to find Troy because he'll work cheaper than a bounty hunter. Troy's brother and his wife don't really seem to care about Troy at all, and the same goes for his addict girlfriend. The only one who seems at all concerned about Troy is the owner of the small trucking company where Troy used to work before he became hopelessly adducted. When the nicest guy involved in the case is the bail jumping meth head, you know it's going to be a distasteful case that doesn't end well. Towards the end of the book, in additional to helping Nameless with the matter involving Emily, Jake gets involved with his own personal matter, when his girlfriend tells him that her ex-husband has been beating her son.
The novel is aptly named. Everyone is experiencing a betrayal of some sort. Tamara is betrayed by the boyfriend who lied to her about everything. In turn, her behavior is sort of a betrayal of Nameless and Jake Runyon in that she becomes so obsessed with hunting down Lucas and making him pay that she completely neglects her duties at the detective agency. Similarly, in Nameless's paying case, Mrs. Abbott has been betrayed by the government and by her family In Nameless's personal matter, the betrayal initially seems to be Emily's but it quickly becomes clear it is someone at Emily's school who has betrayed her trust and that of the entire community. Nameless brings Jake in on the case at the end to keep himself in check so Nameless won't betray his own ideals and cross a fairly major line. In Jake's case for the agency, Troy is betrayed by his family and girlfriend, and in Jake's personal life, his girlfriend is betrayed in multiple ways by her heel of an ex.
As been the case now that there are viewpoint characters besides Nameless, characters all get chapters to themselves, with the viewpoint character clearly labeled at the beginning of each chapter, except for those featuring Nameless. This time around, Tamara's case is the most complicated, and she resolves it without any help from the agency, at considerable personal cost. Nameless spends most of his time on the matter involving Emily, and Jake, who now does most of the legwork for the agency, spends most of the book doing most of the traditional casework, with his personal matter not appearing until the very end of the book. The matter of Jake's girlfriend and her son will probably be dealt with in the upcoming Camoflague, and presumably the blow back from Nameless and Tamara's personal matters will be addressed then as well. For instance, given the dramatic way Tamara's case resolved, there is no way she will be able to continue to keep it a secret from Nameless and Jake. Betrayers, is another solid entry in Pronzini's Nameless Detective series.