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6 november 2014

At the end of Bill Pronzini's Hellbox, surnameless narrator Bill is reunited with his wife Kerry after a kidnapping has traumatized her thoroughly. He retires from detective work to spend more time with her. And as you might imagine, that plan lasts all of 175 pages.

As I noted when reviewing Hellbox, it's in the nature of detective series to continually endanger their recurring characters. Steven Cohan notes of CSI that its supporting characters are particularly vulnerable – as if, when the story shifts off the main hero, something bad must happen to the second banana who presumes to replace him.

Nemesis has a plot of the CSI type, then. With Bill out of the picture, operative Jake Runyon takes on the tedious job of protecting an extortion victim, who seems never to be able to produce her extortionist, or even evidence of his existence. We know this will not end well for Jake. Even Jake knows it will not end well for Jake. But when your client is paying you to protect them, you're supposed to protect them, even if they go all Potiphar's wife on you. Or worse, and there's a lot worse.

Bill comes out of retirement to save Jake. His rescue mission isn't a classic of PI procedure. Bill basically drives around and talks to people. And the dialogue, once he engages in it, isn't exactly done to a Ross Macdonald turn. But there's a suspenseful final scene when Bill closes in on the killer – because in the Nameless series, you also don't know how much the author is willing to hurt his protagonist.

Pronzini, Bill. Nemesis. New York: Forge [Tom Doherty], 2013.