LOST DAUGHTER – Michael Cormany.  Dan Kruger #1. Lyle Stuart, hardcover, 1988. Leisure 3063; paperback, April 1991.

   I’m not completely convinced this is a step forward for the world of Pl fiction, but here it is. PI Dan Kruger is hired to find a man’s daughter, but the case becomes far more than that. Rather. than try to summarize the plot myself, maybe I’m better off simply quoting from p.150:

   I had to give him credit; the smug look dropped a little, but only a little, “I’m not in the drug business,” he said quietly, “You are crazy, private man. You are so crazy I want you to leave right now, I’m scared to be alone with you, That is how crazy you are, You weave stories out of thin air, you hallucinate a little of this a little of that. A lost kid, a little dope, a murder, a guy trying to get his business off the ground, some story about a crooked cop and punks trying to kill you. Throw in a lot of paranoia and, man, you got instant bullshit. I’m calling the police.” He reached for the phone on the desk.

   This is the story, as it turns out, of an all-American family gone to hell in the 80s. It’s paced like Paul Cain (author of Fast One) on speed, and it’s plotted like Hammett on cocaine. It’s not quite as good as either one, but unless you can’t stand repulsive dope-smoking, Valium-addicted, booze-ridden PI’s such as former cop, ex-rock musician Dan Kruger, this will do quite nicely as an up-to-date substitute. It all depends on your level of tolerance. (Picture Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe in 1973, then add 15 more years of revisionist literary history.)

   I’m not old enough to know, but to the general public, is it possible that Sam Spade was as great an anti- hero in his day? Like Spade, Kruger has at least one redeeming feature in his favor. Once hired, he refuses to be bought off, frightened off, or even fired, from what he’s been employed to do. He sticks to the case like a bulldog who can’t let go, and that, if nothing else, is precisely in the solid PI tradition.

– Slightly revised from Mystery*File #30, April 1991.


      The Dan Kruger series —

Lost Daughter.  Stuart 1988
Red Winter. Stuart 1989
Rich or Dead. Birch Lane 1990
Polaroid Man. Birch Lane 1991
Skin Deep Is Fatal. Birch Lane 1992