Flesh and Blood

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The hero of Thomas H. Cook’s earlier novel SACRIFICIAL GROUND--Atlanta police detective Frank Clemons--has moved to New York, where he is trying to establish himself as a private investigator while working out his romance with a wealthy Manhattan socialite. It is at one of her parties that he meets Imalia Covallo, a famous fashion designer, who hires him to investigate the murder of Covallo’s assistant, Hannah Karlsberg.

Hannah has been found slain in her apartment, slashed to death by an unknown attacker, one of her hands hacked off at the wrist. Frank takes the case, although Covallo’s only interest is in locating a relative so that Karlsberg’s body can be released for burial. Frank begins to retrace the life of Hannah Karlsberg, a task that spans sixty years and the unionization of the garment industry in New York. It turns out that Hannah led a mysterious life, full of sudden twists and turns. Frank solves the problem that Covallo has presented him with, but finds that he is so caught up with Karlsberg’s unsolved murder that he has to follow the trail all the way to the killer.

Although FLESH AND BLOOD offers a good story line and interesting background information about the history of the fashion industry, the reader will find Cook’s best work is in the character of Frank Clemons: a man so racked with pain he can barely sleep or eat, spending his nights drinking in all-night bars, watching the other aspects of his life--including his new romance--wither and die. Clemons has lost the capacity to connect with other people, and it is only when he finds crimes as horrendous as Karlsberg’s murder that he truly comes alive, forming alliances with mysterious strangers, uncovering information lost for decades, and living by his own unspoken code of professional honor. As a series character, Clemons has great potential.