DONALD ZOCHERT – Another Weeping Woman. Nick Caine #1. Holt, Rinehart & Winston, hardcover, 1980. No paperback edition.

   It took longer than it should have, but it finally came t me. What the first few chapters of this book read like is what the old radio program Pat Novak, for Hire sounded like. Maybe you remember it. Jack Webb played the title role, a tough, world-weary man-for-all-jobs kind of guy who keeps finding himself in a peck of trouble, mostly of the murder variety.

   The narrator of this tale is named Nick Caine, a man whose background is never completely revealed, but that’s the sort of person he is, and that’s the kind of tough, taciturn story he stumbles into.

   As you read it, you’ll find it mellowing somewhat, into the laid-back, weather-beaten and melancholy mode thathas recently epitomized Rocky Mountain mystery fiction. The scene flickers incessantly back an forth between Denver and the wilderness country of Montana, save for one brief interlude taking place in one of the all-white fortresses that find themselves surrounded by the no-man’s land of urban Chicago.

   It all begins with a dead girl, a girl shot before a grizzly got to her, a girl dead before the bullet reached her brain. Nick Caine picks up the search for her killer, and all he finds are memories, a mother’s heartbreaks, and a continuing sequence of death by violence. Caine has been drifting for a year or more before being persuaded into taking the case. He has been out of action for too long, and his reflexes are slow.

   And at times the story feels as though it is drifting as well. The ending is overdone, as if intent on stifling itself on a morass of bad melodrama. But before the, well, the better hard-boiled detective novel is built on nuances and subtle shades of meaning, not wholly on fast-paced action, and so if that’s the sort of literature that catches your attention, most of what goes before should be exactly what you’re looking for.

–Reprinted in slightly revised form from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 4, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1980. Previously published in the Hartford Courant.

UPDATE:   There was only one more Nick Caine novel, that being The Man of Glass (Holt. 1982). Donald Zochert also wrote one earlier work of crime fiction, Murder in the Hellfire Club (Holt, 1978), a historical mystery taking place in London into the mid-1700s.