Glitz is a story about police, criminals, and the people who inhabit the demimonde in which police and criminals usually operate. It portrays the fashionable resorts of Puerto Rico as well as the island’s slums, where people live on rice and beans. It contrasts the glitzy new Atlantic City, built on greed and suckers’ money, with the decaying Atlantic City of the past, where seniors dread the bulldozers that tear paths for more and yet more gambling palaces.
Vincent Mora goes to Puerto Rico to recuperate from a wound received in a shootout with a junkie in Miami. He becomes emotionally involved with Iris Ruiz, who does not like to be considered a prostitute but who lives by accepting monetary gifts from men who make love to her. Vincent does not know he is being stalked by Teddy Magyk, who plans to kill Vincent for sending him to prison seven and a half years earlier. Teddy shows his viciousness by murdering a Puerto Rican cab driver who becomes curious about him. Vincent eventually uses his contacts with the Puerto Rican police to frighten the stalker into leaving the island.
Coincidentally, Iris is leaving at the same time. She has been offered a job as a “hostess” by Tommy Donovan, an alcoholic multimillionaire who operates resorts in Puerto Rico and Atlantic City. Her career ends abruptly when she is thrown off the eighteenth floor of a luxurious new Atlantic City apartment building.
When Vincent hears of Iris’s death, he decides to investigate. He is handicapped by the fact that as a Miami police officer he has no authority in New Jersey. Not unlike Sam Spade in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1930), who comments, “My way of learning is to heave a wild and unpredictable monkey-wrench into the machinery,” Vincent creates paranoia among the Atlantic City underworld figures. Ironically, Vincent’s intrusion was unnecessary, since it was actually the cunning Teddy Magyk who killed Iris, knowing her death would lure Vincent to Atlantic City.
Vincent becomes involved with Linda Moon, a gifted musician who performs in Donovan’s casino. Vincent also makes friends with DeLeon Johnson, a gigantic former professional football player who works as a bodyguard for Donovan’s vulgar casino manager, Jackie Garbo. Linda and DeLeon help Vincent with his investigation. Meanwhile, Teddy has committed another murder, this time a hapless elderly slot-machine addict who is naïve enough to let Teddy entice her under the famous Atlantic City boardwalk. He has found it easy to rob, murder, and sometimes rape lonely elderly women in the past. Nearly broke, he needs money to continue stalking Vincent. He is even thinking of murdering his own doting, brainless mother, who has been supporting him but not giving him as much as he wants.
Unable to solve Iris’s murder, Vincent returns to San Juan to deliver her ashes to her impoverished family in a barrio called Dulces Labios (Sweet Lips). He is accompanied by Linda and DeLeon, who have lost their jobs because of their friendship with the trouble-making detective. A short while later, Vincent is confronted by the deranged Teddy, who brags about having murdered Iris.
Luck and coincidence, rather than detection and orthodox police procedure, always play a big part in Leonard’s crime novels. Vincent is having a déjà vu experience. When he was shot by the junkie in Miami, his arms had been encumbered with bags of groceries. In Puerto Rico he is on his way to rejoin Linda with a bag containing wine, scotch, rum, and Coca-Cola when he finds himself facing another gun.
By chance, though, Linda has forgotten something. When she runs to the balcony to call to her lover to bring back cheese and crackers, she sees what is happening below. She has never handled a gun before, but she hurries downstairs holding Vincent’s heavy automatic. Teddy dies, but Vincent is wounded in the shootout and has no choice but to extend his paid medical leave in balmy Puerto Rico with his beautiful mistress.
(The entire section is 1,181 words.)