LOREN D. ESTLEMAN – Sweet Women Lie. Amos Walker #10. Houghton Mifflin, hardcover, 1990. Fawcett Crest, paperback; 1st printing, February 1992.

   Amos Walker, a private eye based in Detroit, has been around for a long time. His first adventure appeared in 1981, and as of later this month, there will be 26 novels and one two short story collection[s] under his belt. I’d put him on the Chandler side of Chandler-Hammett divide, with lots of similes and other eye-catching literary devices, each one a semi-polished gem, if not out and out brilliant.

   Now admittedly too much of the latter can also slow the storytelling down to a crawl, but once you’re on Estleman’s wavelength, you’ll find yourself cruising along in high gear with a grin on your face popping up at least once a page, many times more.

   For example, picking a page totally at random, Chapter 9 begins thusly: “One of the advantages of following someone in your building is knowing which boards squeak and which steps wobble because the super hasn’t held a hammer since Eisenhower.”

   Walker’s first client in Sweet Women Lie is a former B-movie queen who now uses her former fame to run a nightclub show in downtown Detroit. “The Club Canaveral’s rainbow front died short of the alley that ran alongside the building.” She gives Walker a briefcase containing $750,000. She wants him, she tells him, to use the money to buy her freedom from her former gangster boy friend.

   Turns out that the story isn’t at all true. It’s a ploy she’s been forced to play a part in by a CIA counterassassin who wants to close up his career with no hitches, but who senses that he’s being followed. It gets complicated from here, but I’ll just add that Walker’s former wife is now married to said CIA man. Other than that, without a scorecard, which I admit I neglected to use, you’ll soon lose track of who’s following who.

   I also admit that I found the story itself not very compelling, except for the nebbish private eye who also gets sucked up into the plot. Him I liked, and I’m sorry he wasn’t able to hang around longer. Other than Amos Walker, who tells the story himself, the rest of players have only their roles to play. My advice? Read this for the telling and let the plot take care of itself.