Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Boobytrap: Bill Pronzini

This is the 25th novel in the Nameless Detective series about a private detective working in the San Francisco area. The series began in 1971 and now consists of nearly 40 novels, plus novellas and short story collections. Over the years the character has aged, matured, and changed his lifestyle.

I started reading these books when they first came out, then introduced them to my husband. We found several copies at a used book store in Santa Barbara in the early 1980s and he bought all that were available there. Pronzini ended up being one of his favorite authors of mysteries and he buys every one of them as soon as they come out.


In this book, Nameless is on a solo fishing trip, staying in a cabin on a lake in the High Sierras. He needs a break but his planned vacation with his wife has been canceled due to her work responsibilities. An Assistant D.A. in San Francisco has offered Nameless the use of a friend's cabin at a mountain lake if he will drive his wife and son up to the area. Unfortunately, Nameless just happens to be at the lake at the same time as a bomber is seeking vengeance on the people who sent him to prison.

I like the way the story was told partly through journal entries written by the bomber, who has just been released from prison for an attack on his ex-wife and her lover. The reader knows from the beginning there will be trouble coming when Nameless arrives at the lake. Suspense is maintained by not knowing which other newcomer at the lake is the culprit or how he has set up his boobytrap. The relationship between the D.A.'s twelve-year-old son, Chuck, and Nameless is very well done.

There are significant ways this book differs from earlier books that I read. The story here focuses mainly on Nameless, less on his personal relationships and the changes at the office. Normally the entire story is told from the detective's point of view, in first person; this time we have the bomber's point of view, giving us more information. Also, we are away from the more usual setting of San Francisco. This was a good place for me to get back into the series, but not necessarily a good place to start for those who haven't read any other books in the series.

I enjoyed the book knowing the character's previous struggles and the type of person he is, and none of that is rehashed with each book (which is a good thing). At this point in the series Nameless has added one or more persons in his office and is less of a loner, but that is definitely in the background in this book. As a side note, Nameless actually gets a first name in this book; he is called Bill by one of the characters. It is just a throwaway line, no emphasis on it ... and I completely missed it.

With a series that has been ongoing for 40 plus books, it is probably futile to recommend that the reader start at book 1 and read in order. That is a time investment most won't make. There are advantages to reading the earlier novels. There is a progression in the life of the detective. He may have hit some rough spots but he is not a flawed character with major problems.

Bill Pronzini was born in 1943 and has been a full-time professional writer since 1969. He is a very prolific writer; in addition to the Nameless detective series, he has published many standalone novels, including westerns, and many short stories. He has also edited a huge number of anthologies, alone and with others. He was the first president of the Private Eye Writers of America. Both he and his wife Marcia Muller have been honored with the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

For more information on this series, there is a great description of Nameless and the evolution of the series at The Thrilling Detective website.

This post is submitted as an entry for Patti Abbott's Forgotten Friday Books meme at her Pattinase blog, which will feature Marcia Muller or Bill Pronzini on December 16

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Publisher:   Carroll & Graf, 1998 
Length:       213 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Series:        Nameless Detective, #25
Setting:       High Sierras, California
Genre:        Mystery
Source:       Borrowed from my husband.


12 comments:

  1. I like this series very much, too, Tracy. I think Nameless is a well-developed character, and I like the way he evolves over the course of the novels. Pronzini's writing style is really fitting for the stories, too, and I do like the setting.

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    1. It was very good to get back to this series, Margot. Nameless is a great character.

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  2. I had never heard of him before so I was surprised to see that there are quite a few of his later books in Fife libraries, mainly in large print and some of his westerns too. I'll give him a go sometime.

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    1. That is interesting and good that some of Pronzini's books are available there, Katrina. I plan to read one (or more) of his westerns when I find one.

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  3. Forty-plus in the Nameless series and I haven't read even one — a real shame. My reading resolutions for 2017 are mounting and Bill Pronzini is on top of the list.

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    1. My reading resolutions for 2017 are mounting also, Prashant. I hope to read more Pronzini next year.

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  4. Boobytrap was my first book by either Pronzini or Muller, Tracy, and I read it on Ed Gorman's recommendation. I enjoyed it immensely.

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    1. Now I have to stick with my goal to read more of the Nameless novels, Mathew, and also read more by Marcia Muller. I have not decided whether to start with the earlier books in the series or just pick up anywhere in here main series.

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  5. I'm inclined to just read some of those I've seen reviewed here, Tracy, regardless of their place in the sequence.

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    1. That is probably the best idea, Mathew, I am usually a stickler for reading in order but maybe I will start with the one Patti reviewed, Vanishing Point.

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  6. One of those authors where I have read a couple but don't seek them out. But I liked the ones I read, so one day...

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    1. There are so many good authors of crime fiction these days, Moira, so it is hard to keep up with all of them. Since Glen has copies of all of the Nameless books this one is easy for me to read when I want to. I do want to continue on and hope I can find time for them, because the series does change direction and I want to see how I like the changes.

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