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11 november 2014

At the end of Nemesis, surnameless Bill promised his wife Kerry that he'd never put himself in the way of bodily harm again. For most of Strangers, he's as good as his word. Sure, he braces a few tough guys in barrooms, drives around a hostile community in a jeep he's borrowed from a client arraigned for serial rapes, and trespasses on the property of a few paranoid gun nuts. But that's mild behavior in the Nameless detective-novel series.

Bill's sidekicks Tamara and Jake hardly appear in the 2014 Nameless installment. Like Maigret wandering into an episode of Murder, She Wrote, Bill up and drives to Nevada to help clear an old flame's worthless son of those serial rapes. He finds himself in a mining town that slightly less friendly than any given circle of hell. Mineral Springs is populated by stock characters, including a steely sheriff, a gormless bowtied attorney, some youthful hoodlums on extended loan from Rebel without a Cause, and an anti-social drug dealer who lives in a trailer in a nearby ghost town – and is the sheriff's idea of a credible witness against jailed young Cody Hatcher.

Well of course the sheriff is wrong, but Strangers will keep you guessing after the right answer. Bill finds it quick enough. As Sheriff Felix, the town's only mensch, has to laconically admit,

Should have figured this. You did in only four days. … I learned something from you. I won't make that kind of mistake again. (216)
I like the ambiguity there, because the sheriff might equally well be saying that he won't make the mistake of learning anything from nameless Bill again. And the odds look slim. Felix and Bill solve the crime, but don't promise to text or anything. And at novel's end, Bill proclaims, "I would never look back this way again" (252).

Which, in Bill Pronzini's world, might well guarantee that the next Nameless novel will take place in Mineral Springs, Nevada.

Pronzini, Bill. Strangers. New York: Forge [Tom Doherty], 2014.