JOE GORES – Menaced Assassin. Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1994; paperback, 1995.

   Gores has been one of my longtime favorites, and I had heard good reports on this; but I thought his last, Dead Man, was so poor that I approached it with a few fortunately unjustified misgivings.

   Will Dalton’s estranged wife discovers something on the company computer not quite right, tells Will, and is murdered. The method looks professional, so Lt. Dante Stagnaro of Organized Crime is called in. There are no clues, but then people on the periphery of the case start to die violently, and someone called “Raptor” begins to leave messages on Dante’s answering machine that claim credit for them. But are they mob killings, or is this a private vendetta?

   Welcome back, Joe. I think this is the best novel Gores has written in a long time. It’s also a very difficult book to describe in a brief space, because of the intricate and quite different structure. There are flashbacks, and shifts of viewpoint, and a running lecture on evolution by one of the principals, and one is never quite sure who is doing what to whom.

   But don’t let any of that scare you off. It’s a virtuoso performance for Gores, who never loses track of where he is or where he is going, and doesn’t allow you to, either. At least not the former — you may well wonder right up until the end where he’s going. There are more characters central to the story than is the norm, and Gores does justice to all of them, particularly to the voice he gives to Raptor. This is fine hardboiled fiction.


— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #16, November 1994.