Infernal Angels (Amos Walker Series #21)by Loren D. Estleman
Break out the champagne--it's the twenty-first Amos Walker noir detective novel!
Much like author Loren D. Estleman, Detroit private investigator Amos Walker has long been reluctant to embrace technology--he only recently got his first cell phone. Walker is hired to do a twenty-first-century job--recovering HDTV converter boxes stolen/b>/b>/b>
Break out the champagne--it's the twenty-first Amos Walker noir detective novel!
Much like author Loren D. Estleman, Detroit private investigator Amos Walker has long been reluctant to embrace technology--he only recently got his first cell phone. Walker is hired to do a twenty-first-century job--recovering HDTV converter boxes stolen from a retailer whose shop also does vintage resale business. Before long, the case turns old school: both a suspect and the man who lost the boxes are murdered, and Walker ends up working with both the local police and the feds. The converter boxes were being used to smuggle high-grade heroin that's been killing off junkies left and right, and it's up to Walker to track down the missing dope.
Old friends and even older enemies resurface before this story is done, and Walker has to take a few beatings if he wants to find out who has been trafficking the drugs and bring the crooks to justice. This old dog still has a few new tricks, and there hasn't been a case yet that Walker couldn't crack.
“Estleman proves conclusively that there's plenty of life left in the contemporary hard-boiled subgenre.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The latest Walker novel features all the selling points that have made the series a touchstone for fans of hard-boiled crime fiction: irrepressible tough-guy dialogue, great plotting, vibrant Detroit milieu, and a hero who has whiskey on his breath and nicotine stains on his fingers.” —Booklist
“Estleman's latest intricate and wholly enjoyable yarn is peppered with mob lore, Detroit history, and the ever-present one-liners. It is sure to please fans of urban mysteries as well as classic detective genre devotees. Strongly recommended.” —Library Journal
“Estleman, one of America's best crime novelists, has produced a well-plotted, hard-boiled tale that's rife with mayhem and murder.”—Lansing State Journal
Praise for American Detective, one of Publishers Weekly’s 100 best books of 2007 and the nineteenth Amos Walker mystery:
“Estleman delivers some outstanding stuff on the hazards of the profession, including a bone-chilling stakeout on a lonely lake in the dead of night, that could come only from an old pro.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Estleman turns Amos Walker loose in a plot and it’s pure private eye all the way. In a great tradition, the gumshoe with an attitude. No one does it better.” —Elmore Leonard, bestselling author of Get Shorty
“Loren D. Estleman is one of a handful of candidates for the title of true heir to Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald. He is a great ‘American Detective’ writer.” —Max Allan Collins, bestselling author of Road to Perdition
“Estleman's prose is as gritty and compelling as ever as he lets fly razor-sharp dialogue, brings the Motor City to life and combines a whodunit plot with traditional noir action.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Normally I’m a voracious plot reader, burning through the pages for the action, but here, though the plot is nicely twisty, I’m more than happy to slow down enough to take in the scenery, colored by Amos’ snappy comebacks and observations based on the bigger half of a life lived in other people’s problems. Highly recommended.” —GumshoeReview.com
Estleman composes still another hymn to Detroit, with Amos Walker soloing for the 21st time (The Left-handed Dollar,2010, etc.).
Detroit PD Sergeant Mansanard is that rarest of rare birds, a cop who likes Amos Walker. Likes him well enough to recommend him to a certain R. Crossgrain, whose retro-looking business card promises: "Everything you require for the Modern Regressive Lifestyle." Even someone as astute as Walker, arguably Detroit's most literate P.I., has trouble translating that from gnomic to English, but he gets the gist. Crossgrain markets to the technologically challenged. Driven by the obligatory cash-flow problems, Walker pockets the card and calls on Crossgrain, who explains that a recent break-in has left him suddenly short 50 television converter boxes. What matters most about these boxes, it turns out, is they're hollow, a design feature eminently useful to career smugglers. In due time, it becomes clear to Walker that along with the converter boxes, a substantial amount of high-grade heroin is also missing. The bad guys who once owned it want it back, and they propose to fill body bags with obstructionists. Though Walker would prefer not to be numbered among these, he puts his own attitude succinctly: "Whenever I'm faced with a problem, I identify it, analyze it, and make it bigger."
Formulaic, to be sure, but steadfast marchers in Walker's army are not likely to complain.
Read an Excerpt
An Amos Walker Novel
By Loren D. Estleman, James Frenkel
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2011 Loren D. Estleman
All rights reserved.
Nothing ever wakes you up from a nightmare, have you noticed?
If you're dreaming of eating strawberries or cutting a ceremonial ribbon or dining with Julia Roberts, you can depend on the alarm or the telephone or a hand on your shoulder to bust in before the payoff, but if your teeth are falling out or a grizzly is charging you, you're in for the duration.
For a week I'd been chasing a car with a car chasing me, and then someone miscued and we all smashed up with me in the middle. I heard rubber howl and metal scream and the squishy crunch of bones breaking and when I woke up I tasted blood.
The latest collision was the same as all the rest. I came out of it with my leg hurting, a low-grade ache that would turn into hours of teeth-grinding agony if I didn't catch it early. I took two Vicodin, chewing them to streamline their way into my circulatory system. The leg always lets me know when a solstice is coming. If you'd rather get that from a calendar, duck the next time someone shoots at you.
There was no sleep until the pills kicked in, and then only the same nightmare. I went into the kitchen, but there wasn't enough coffee left in the can to open one eye.
It was a little short of four A.M. I pulled on a sweatshirt, mildewing jeans from the hamper, and a pair of sneakers, fired up the four-barrel, and drove between canals of dead leaves, crossing intersections where the signals blinked yellow. Away out in space the aircraft warning light on top of the Penobscot Building pulsed on and off, as distant as the Big Dipper. On one corner a man dressed exactly as I was sat on the curb among his duffels and tattered trash bags, eating something from a greasy paper cupped in both hands. He appeared to own more things than I did. These are the thoughts you think at that hour. They can't be healthy.
A few corners down from there a Walgreen's sat in a fluorescent blaze with a handful of cars drifted up against the building. I slid in beside a handicap space, passed through the sliding door, and heard my first Christmas carol of the year on the PA. It was late October and the center aisles were crowded with Halloween costumes and talking skulls.
An orange electric cord snaked between displays of candied peanuts and Trojans, at the end of which a man in blue coveralls was pushing a floor buffer as slowly as if he were sifting for land mines. I walked around him and turned the corner toward the pantry section. The midnight blue uniform of a Detroit patrol officer caught my eye by the tail. He was standing near the pharmacy counter with his back to the rest of the room, staring up at the convex mirror mounted in the corner near the ceiling. The attenuated reflections of the scattered customers slid across the surface, but he didn't appear to be interested in the ones that were moving. He was focused on a skinny figure with his hands buried in the pockets of a hooded gray sweatshirt standing behind a woman being waited on at the counter near the door.
The cop was very big, very black, and I'd had business with him in the past, mostly of the friendly kind. His name was Sergeant Mansanard, but he'd been a detective lieutenant when we'd first met, which was too close to get to the chief when the administration changed. Now he pushed a cruiser through some of the city's worst neighborhoods, frequently without a partner because the mayor had had to cough up a nine-million-dollar settlement for unlawfully terminating a number of Mansanard's fellow officers for taking their oath too literally, and that had led to layoffs.
"You look like you was shit by a pigeon." He didn't glance away from the mirror. He'd probably seen me coming all the way from the parking lot.
"That's good," I said. "Can I use it?"
"Ask my watch captain. I got it from him."
I joined him in the stakeout. We didn't talk police business because voices carried among all those reflective surfaces.
The scrawny kid, if that's what he was, put in a workout just standing there, twitching his shoulders and rolling his head on his neck and flexing his fists in his pockets. They opened onto a pouch that went across the front of his sweatshirt. It wasn't long enough for a sawed-off shotgun, but pistols and revolvers come in all sizes. The woman in front of him, twice as broad in a red coat with a monkey collar, had heaped a stack of men's shirts on plastic hangers on the counter and the clerk went through them one by one, scanning the tags and removing the hangers. I'd have fidgeted, too, but the weather was too mild to pull your hood up over your ears; that's like a cloak of invisibility where surveillance cameras are concerned.
I was starting to feel sorry I'd left the .38 at home. Coffee prices weren't so high I'd figured I'd need it.
At length the woman in the coat wrote out a check and the clerk processed it through his machine and stuffed the shirts in a plastic bag and Gray Hood stepped up and asked for a box of Marlboros. His tone fell somewhere between a mumble and silence. When the clerk asked for ID he took both hands out of his pockets. Mansanard's thumb slid over the blunt hammer of the Beretta in his holster.
The pouch collapsed without support. The clerk peered at the driver's license in the customer's wallet and took a box off a shelf behind him.
Mansanard relaxed, but I stayed tense until money changed hands and the kid left.
"He might've implied he had a weapon," I said.
"That only works in banks. I wish I had more banks on my beat. Clerk's Korean. If he don't have a mag at least under that counter his people would cast him out. We'll just wait a bit. He might've been casing the place."
"After showing ID?"
"If it wasn't fake, maybe he don't plan to leave the clerk in shape to remember it."
Three minutes went by, and one transaction. They seemed longer. The sergeant turned my way with a grin. "That's like a half hour in perp time," he said. "They don't have the attention span to follow a pie fight. Looks like the republic's safe for a little longer. How are you, Amos, still reading room registers?"
"There's no money in that in a no-fault divorce state." I shook his hand. It could have wrapped twice around mine, a white pig in a black blanket, but the grip was barely there. The really big dogs hardly ever feel the need to show their teeth. "They got you on drugstore detail now?"
"Oh, hell, no. I just come in for a juice box. Funny, I thought about calling you tonight."
"No boxes, sorry. I drink straight from the bottle."
"This is work, maybe the paying kind." He looked around. "Care to sit in the cruiser? These places give me the willies, especially at night. All the bad guys are out there in the dark and here you and me sit like a couple of Big Macs under a heat bulb."
"I didn't see a cruiser out front."
"I parked out front, the scroats would just go to the next place down the road and stick it up. Might as well make myself useful."
"A little, now they're moving out of that dump downtown. I still got mold in my lungs." He coughed into his fist by way of demonstration; something rattled deep in his chest. "I don't miss timing my trips to the can so's I don't run into the chief. Now when nature calls I just radio it in and stop at a party store. Let's go out and sit in the bucket."
"As long as my friends don't see me."
"What friends you got, what're the odds?"
We made our purchases and walked around the building to where he'd left his black-and-gold unit next to a Dumpster. Inside, the equipment jammed between the front seats crowded us against the doors: onboard computer, two-way radio, fax machine, piano bar. The winking green and red and amber lights cast his face in opalescent glow, piling shadows under the stony ridge of his forehead and in the hollow of his chin. When he pierced his box of grapefruit juice with a plastic straw and drew on it, the sides caved in and the corners of his police-issue moustache nearly touched. "What you taking for the leg, Demerol?"
"Vicodin. I didn't think I'd limped."
"You was trying too hard not to. I take Demerol for the back. They never will learn how to design these seats for no eight-hour tour." He slurp-slurped. "I'd hate to have to bust you some night for possession."
"So far it's legal. I've got an understanding doctor."
"That's what the suburbs are for. Working late?"
"Not working lately. Business picks up around Devil's Night."
"Teenage runaways, mine. All you've got to worry about's vandalism and arson."
"Scraphounds now, too. Strip the copper plumbing out of empty houses, pry up manhole covers, snatch bronze angels from cemeteries and sell 'em to salvage yards. Dig the fillings out of your teeth if you pass out at a bus stop. Whole city's got a bad case of metal-eating termites. If they could get to the suspension cables on the Ambassador Bridge we'd have to swim to Canada."
"There's always the tunnel."
"I'll take my chances in the water, not under it."
I drummed my fingers on the top of the coffee can in the plastic bag in my lap. "Scavengers, is that the job?"
"That's my job. Man can gripe, can't he?" He took a business card out of a pocket of his leather tunic and held it out between his first and second fingers.
I took it. It was glossy red with gold letters. I had to turn it this way and that in the reading light to cut the glare. Mansanard siphoned grapefruit juice as I read.
"Everything you require
for the Modern Regressive Lifestyle"
R. Crossgrain, Prop.
I turned it over. The back was blank. It was as spare as mine: no fax, cell, Web site, e-mail; just the street address and a landline. It was a collector's item. "What's the modern regressive lifestyle?"
"I ain't just sure, but I think you're living it."
I got the rest of what I needed and then his straw gurgled and he crumpled the box in one fist and drove around to my car to save wear and tear on the leg, dropping the box in a curbside container on the way. I thanked him and we separated. Driving away I couldn't shake the feeling I was still dreaming and heading toward that same triple smashup I'd been dreaming about for a week.
I never got the chance to tell Sergeant Mansanard what came of his tip. Four months later, on a mission to buy something flimsy for his wife for Valentine's Day, he walked in on an armed robbery in the Victoria's Secret store in the Fairlane Mall in Dearborn and took a slug through the heart before he could get to his holster.CHAPTER 2
Marcus Street didn't feature often in the news. So far no meth labs had turned up there and it wasn't one of those neighborhoods where body bags came and went as regularly as rain in Brazil. The address was spelled out in script on the wooden front porch of a narrow brick house in a row of them, with a driveway it shared with the neighbor next door and a TV antenna shaped like an airplane on the roof. Someone had taped a square of cardboard over a broken pane in the front door. I figured that was where the burglar had gained entry.
A tall man with an egg-shaped head opened the door at my knock. He wore a burnt-orange cardigan over a white bowling shirt and shapeless slacks the color of anything. An aluminum baseball bat rested on his left shoulder.
"You want to keep that down around hip level," I said. "Shove it hard into their belly. Swinging takes too much space." I held up my ID folder.
His eyes moved slowly behind rimless glasses, reading the credentials. "Is that badge real?"
"County phased out the design ten or twelve years ago. You can check out the rest with the state police in Lansing."
"I did, right after you called. Your license is up for renewal in December, Mr. Walker."
"I haven't decided yet whether to apply. You're Mr. Crossgrain?"
He nodded, taking inventory. I'd caught a couple of hours' sleep — without dreams — and turned out scrubbed and shaved in a new suit. I seemed to pass inspection, because he stooped to lean the bat against the inside of the door frame and shuffled out of my way in slippers that left his heels bare. He closed and locked the door behind me and led me past a living room full of furniture draped in transparent plastic down a short hallway into a kitchen.
"Will you have a cup of coffee? I'm sorry if I was rude. I didn't get much sleep last night."
"I'd like one, thanks. I bet you slept sitting up with that bat across your lap."
"It was horrible. I've never been broken into before. It's a violated feeling. What do you take in it?" He unplugged a percolator shaped like a spaceship and started pouring.
"Just more coffee." I looked around. "I grew up in a room just like this."
The kitchen was large, built back when everyone in the house gathered there, painted bright green and yellow, with a fluorescent halo ceiling fixture, a laminated table with matching chairs, and a Westinghouse refrigerator with old-fashioned coils on top. An old-fashioned gas range with one of those handles you pumped to bring up the pressure squatted on curved cast-iron legs at the end of a Formica counter.
"The stove and fridge were probably before your time. It's over the top, I suppose, but you should've seen the place when I moved in. The seventies have a lot to answer for when it comes to architectural vandalism. Renovating it is how I got started."
I accepted a steaming cup, white with a green stripe and as thick as my finger, and we sat down at the table. I watched him doctor his cup with sugar from a kind of dispenser I hadn't seen in years. "So this is what you sell?"
He smiled. He was a year or two older than I was, with grayish skin that looked as if it would preserve thumbprints like putty. His teeth stood out white against it. "Just what part of 'Past Presence' didn't you understand?"
"Sergeant Mansanard told me a little. I figured you could fill in the blanks." Crossgrain's place had been his first radio call of the midnight-to-eight tour.
"He wasn't very encouraging. He wrote down what was missing, with a description, said if anyone tried to sell it and someone saw the stuff on the hot list or otherwise got suspicious the police might recover some of it. He didn't even dust for fingerprints. Is that what they do now, just keep records of crimes for the statistics?"
"The cops solve most crimes. Forensics' pretty strung out. Burglary falls below the middle on the list of priorities. It'd be different if you'd managed to get murdered."
"Is that supposed to be funny?"
"Apparently not." I drank. The coffee tasted heavily of aluminum, but that might have been the power of suggestion based on the Buck Rogers percolator. "It helps to keep things in perspective. Getting ripped off isn't as bad as it can get. I understand you weren't home at the time."
"I got in late from a show in Chicago: Mid-twentieth-century collectibles. It was dark and I hadn't left the porch light on — purposely, to avoid attracting burglars." The smile now was bitter. "I didn't notice the pane was broken until I opened the door and stepped on the glass."
"Dead bolt's not much good when there's a window within reach of the knob. Is this where you do business?"
"From the basement, by appointment. I used to have a shop in Sterling Heights, but I lost my lease when the casinos went in here in town. All that new revenue was going to trickle down to the suburbs, you see. An upscale restaurant stood to pay more rent than a broken-down curiosity shop."
"What was taken?"
He sipped from his cup. He'd kept the spoon in it and braced the handle with his thumb to keep from poking himself in the eye. The gesture reminded me of my father, in a kitchen much like his. "How much do you know about high-definition television?"
"I know I can't afford one."
"Many can't, but they're going to have to scrape up the money soon if they don't want to abandon their reality shows. By federal law, every station in the country is switching to a high-def frequency. That's the end of analog broadcasting. If you have a regular cathode-ray set like we've had since the dawn of television, you won't get a signal."
"You'd think Washington had enough to keep it busy without that."
"The excuse is the government wants to reserve the analog frequency for emergency transmissions in the interest of national security, but some of us suspect the flow of campaign money from the manufacturers of plasma and liquid-crystal television receivers helped nudge undecided legislators off the fence. The home electronics industry stands to make trillions — not billions; trillions — from that decision over the next ten years."
Excerpted from Infernal Angels by Loren D. Estleman, James Frenkel. Copyright © 2011 Loren D. Estleman. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
LOREN D. ESTLEMAN is the author of more than sixty novels. He has won four Shamus Awards, five Spur Awards, and three Western Heritage Awards, among others. He lives with his wife, author Deborah Morgan, in central Michigan, where he is currently working on a major novel about Al Capone.
Loren D. Estleman is the author of more than fifty novels. Winner of three Shamus Awards, three Western Heritage Awards, four Spur Awards and many other literary prizes. He lives outside Detroit with his wife, author Deborah Morgan.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Estleman is at the top of his game here, riffing about Detroit the way Chandler did about LA in his Marlowe novels. Only a writer with imagination would use digital TV signal converter boxes as the basis for a smuggling operation. The story doesn't let up and has no fat in it. Only the end let me down a bit.I suspect there is a sequel somewhere down the road. Amos Walker may be the last of the great hard-boiled PIs, May he live long and prosper (but not enough to retire).
Amos Walker a good fast paced read.
In Detroit Reuben Crossgrain owns Past Presence where "Everything you require for the Modern Regressive Lifestyle" is for sale. He hires private investigator Amos Walker to recover 25 stolen TV converter boxes that allow the owner to watch HDTV on an analog set. Amos who is technological delinquent is a bit shocked with the job because the loss barely covers his retainer. Walker works the mean streets of the Motor City seeking clues to the identities of the owners of these hot gizmos. However, the relatively easy inquiry turns nasty when his efforts reach his "friend" former Detroit police detective and current Homeland Security Operative Mary Ann Thaler. The case turns ugly when a key suspect and the person who lost the shipment are murdered; however that twist feels more at home to Walker than seeking gadgets he never heard of doing things to TV sets that should have rabbit ears. He begins to learn of a deadly heroin trafficking using Crossgrain's converter boxes. The twenty-first Amos Walker private investigative thriller (see The Left-Handed Dollar) is a great tale that provides the usual deep look at the shrinking city that some believe has died; the state has not announced the wake. The story line is vintage Walker as he gets beat up and beats up others while corpses provide plenty of business for undertakers and body bag manufacturers. Fans will enjoy this modern day noir as the anti techie hero works plans to charge his client for his medical bills. Harriet Klausner