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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In QUARRY, Bill Pronzini’s nineteenth Nameless Detective novel, Nameless is hired by a father who is worried about his grown daughter. Never very communicative, she has left her job and returned home to the family farm, visibly disturbed by some turn of events about which she refuses to speak. After a fair amount of legwork, Nameless discovers that his client’s daughter is being stalked by a shadowy, highly menacing mystery man whose use of aliases and frequent changes of address keep him one step ahead of our wily hero. As the plot develops, all three of the main characters—Nameless, the young woman he is trying to protect and her pursuer—become “quarry.”

Pronzini’s series is notable not only because his detective remains anonymous (an homage to Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op’) but also because of his hero’s aversion to guns, love of pulp magazines, and the glimpses of Nameless’ everyday life, including his loves, friendships, and quest for self-knowledge. This book has all of these things, including a subplot involving Nameless’ partner’s wedding plans and a concluding, highly personalized moral dilemma. As with most work in the hardboiled genre, the book also contains some candid social commentary and attempts to delve more deeply into its characters than does the typical whodunit.

Pronzini, as always, writes competently and imaginatively. Some readers will find the heavy emphasis on introspection, which began in SHACKLES (novel number seventeen in the series), tedious. Others will want to shake Nameless silly for refusing to carry a gun. (He always seems to need one by the time the jig is up.) Loyal Pronzini fans however, will enjoy the fast-paced narrative and “hardboiled” insights provided in this book.