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The Ragged End of Nowhere
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The Ragged End of Nowhere

4.2 4
by Roy Chaney

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Bodo Hagen thought his family had left Las Vegas for good. He had joined the CIA and moved to Berlin, while his younger brother had followed in their father's footsteps and joined the French Foreign Legion. For a while they were free from the criminal underworld upon which the Vegas Strip was built.

But when his Legion contract ended, Bodo's brother returned to


Bodo Hagen thought his family had left Las Vegas for good. He had joined the CIA and moved to Berlin, while his younger brother had followed in their father's footsteps and joined the French Foreign Legion. For a while they were free from the criminal underworld upon which the Vegas Strip was built.

But when his Legion contract ended, Bodo's brother returned to Las Vegas. Five days later his body was found on the edge of the desert. Word is that he'd returned from Europe with a valuable—and possibly stolen—ancient relic to sell. Now Bodo must come back and track down that missing artifact—and with it, his brother's killer.

A quick-witted, fast-paced novel that shines a sharp new light on Las Vegas, The Ragged End of Nowhere was awwarded the 2008 Tony Hillerman Prize for best debuty mystery set in the American Southwest.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Easily one of the most polished and assured first crime novels I've ever read. Whether it's the glitz of Las Vegas or the underworld of Paris and Berlin, Roy Chaney really knows how to put you at the scene of the crime and ratchet up the suspense. Connoisseurs of Chandler and Connelly have a new author to devour.” —Jason Starr, author of The Follower and Panic Attack

“Can a novel be 'retro' and fresh at the same time? Apparently, because Chaney's book is just that, a smart new take on a classic genre. If you think you've read the last word on Las Vegas, then you should check out The Ragged End of Nowhere.” —Don Winslow, author of The Dawn Patrol

“Bodo Hagen is a new breed of private eye who makes a very special debut in The Ragged End of Nowhere. Roy Chaney exhibits the sure hand of an old pro as he describes Bodo's hunt to find his brother's killer amidst the flash and glitter of present-day Las Vegas. This is one of the best P.I. book titles in many years. Hopefully, Bodo is already booked for a return engagement in Sin City.” —Robert J. Randisi, author of The Rat Pack series

“This action-packed plot zips from beautiful, but crooked antique dealers to local crime czars to tough-as-nails Foreign Legionnaires. Though set in the sleazy underside of present day Las Vegas, the author successfully recreates a 1940's noir atmosphere: a "lone wolf looking for justice," tough grifters, and beautiful, scheming women. . . . This gritty plot mixed with some dashes of humor make this an entertaining read.” —Deadly Pleasures

Publishers Weekly
Winner of the second Tony Hillerman Prize, Chaney's promising debut is set in sometimes glitzy, often tawdry Las Vegas far removed from Hillerman's New Mexico.Bodo Hagen is CIA, but his return to Las Vegas after 10 years is entirely personal. Bodo's brother, Ronnie, was shot to death at Hoover Dam just days after Ronnie came back to Vegas from a stint with the French Foreign Legion. As Bodo retraces his brother's steps, he gets reacquainted with a slew of rough characters from his past, including John McGrath, the cop investigating Ronnie's killing; Marty Ray, owner of a small casino called Diamond Jim's; and an old girlfriend, Maxine Peach. Bodo learns that Ronnie was trying to fence a rare artifact with a strange past that others are willing to buy or kill for. While the plot isn't terribly suspenseful, Chaney has a knack for deft characterization, and uses Ronnie's French Foreign Legion connection to great effect. The ambiguous ending suggests a sequel. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Newly retired CIA agent Hagen is called back to his hometown of Las Vegas when his brother, a member of the French Foreign Legion, is murdered five days after returning from his tour of duty. Hagen finds that his sibling had been trying to sell a valuable artifact that was possibly stolen from the Legion. In this fast-paced debut, winner of the second annual Tony Hillerman Prize for the best first mystery set in the West, there is more than one dangerous group out to stop Hagen from finding his brother's killer. VERDICT Chaney deliberately does not describe Hagen's emotions, and the reader is not allowed a sense of connection with the hero and his quest. Oddly enough, this detachment adds depth and makes the reader want more, especially since the ending is a zinger of a cliff-hanger. For fans of Brad Thor.
Kirkus Reviews
What happens in Vegas gets buried in Vegas in Chaney's debut. In the years since the Hagen brothers were homeboys in Las Vegas, both have led colorful lives. Bodo's been a Company man for his Uncle Sam in Germany; Ronnie, who never much liked their father, has chosen for complicated reasons to follow in the old man's footsteps by joining the French Foreign Legion. A phone call from an old friend informs Bodo of Ronnie's violent end. A mere five days after returning to Vegas, he's been discovered in his car near Hoover Dam, a bullet in his head. Though the Hagen boys were never close, Bodo leaves Germany faster than a blitzkrieg. Doggedly, he sets about tracking down Ronnie's killer in order to extract an eye for an eye. The exercise is obligatory but deceptively complex. What, for instance, is to be made of the so-called "Dead Man's Hand?" Why is this unprepossessing wooden artifact worth so much to so many? Is it the stuff dreams are made of? And if shiftless, shifty Ronnie had indeed gained possession of it, how in the world had he done so? Bodo has lots of questions to put to an unsettling array of bloodthirsty people. Too much back story, too much expository dialogue and not enough fire in the hero's belly.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

“so what form of satan brings you to Las Vegas?” said the clerk behind the rental car counter at McCarran International Airport. He was an older man. Black brush bristle hair, one sleepy eyelid. A sly smile crossed his face as he tapped away at his computer terminal.
Bodo Hagen got the joke. What little there was of it. Las Vegas— gambling, drinking, hookers, dope. All the accepted vices were here for the asking, and a few others besides.
Hagen was back in Las Vegas. After more than ten years.
Hagen was back home.
He’d left Berlin more than twenty-four hours ago. Berlin to Paris. Paris to New York. New York to Chicago. Chicago to here. He’d got­ten a little sleep on the Paris to New York leg but not much. He was worn-out and groggy. Too many cups of burned airline coff ee had given him a headache.
Twenty minutes later Hagen drove a silver Buick LeSabre sedan off the rental agency lot, headed out into the harsh sunlight and blast fur­nace heat of the southwestern desert.
He turned left on Tropicana, then right onto Las Vegas Boulevard. Behind him was a casino hotel built in the shape of a pyramid, with a tall sphinx looming over the Strip, its eyes staring at the runways of the airport across the street. To his left stood a Statue of Liberty and a Coney Island roller coaster. Farther down the Strip he passed an Eiff el Tower, a fully rigged pirate galleon, and an Italian campanile looming over a narrow canal where gondolas floated on still, blue waters. They were all casino hotels and Hagen hadn’t seen any of them before, ex­cept as pictures in magazines or on tele vision.
The Strip had changed a lot in the last decade. The names of the casino hotels alone told the story—the Luxor, the Excalibur, New York New York, Paris Las Vegas, the Venetian, Mandalay Bay, Treasure Island. Las Vegas had been busy in recent years. Busy trying to turn itself into a billion-dollar version of someplace else. But then the Las Vegas that people came to see had always been an illusion. It was simply the scale that had changed. The illusion had grown larger in every way and now walked with giant’s feet across the flat desert of the Las Vegas valley.
Hagen checked his watch. He had a little time. On a side street off the north end of the Strip he pulled up in front of a small bar, half sur­prised to see that it was still there. The white stucco walls were cracked. The red script on the electric sign that hung over the oak door read high numbers club.
The barroom was cool and dark. Two men with sun-parched faces under battered cowboy hats sat at a table in the center of the barroom, silently drinking. A country-and-western song about picking up and leaving town, some town, any town, played on the jukebox.
Hagen stepped up to the bar. Ordered a short beer and a shot of bourbon.
The High Numbers Club had always been a dump. But it was a comfortable dump. The barroom was dark and the beer was cold and the clientele was usually local. And for comedy relief there were the wedding parties that stumbled in from the Desert Rose Chapel next door, freshly pressed and starched and still giddy from a fifteen- minute, two-hundred-dollar Las Vegas wedding. Hagen had spent quite a bit of time in the High Numbers Club years ago, before he left for Berlin. His old man was sick then, sick with the cancer. Hagen didn’t hang around long enough to help bury him.
He let his brother Ronnie do that.
The bartender set the glass of beer and the shot on the counter. Hagen downed the bourbon in one splash, then went to work on the beer. A few minutes later he signaled for another round. “Another quick
The bartender set the second round in front of Hagen.
“Let me guess,” the bartender said. “You’re in a hurry to get to a wedding.”
“No,” Hagen said. “A funeral.”
Bodo Hagen had already been in Berlin for several years when he re­ceived a letter mailed from Castelnaudary, France. It was a note from Ronnie, telling Bodo that he’d just enlisted in the French Foreign Le­gion.
Bodo was surprised but not too surprised. Their father had once served in the Legion. He’d never talked about it much, but once or twice, when he was in his cups, Hagen’s father had unlocked the wooden foot­locker he kept in his closet and shown his two sons his old dress uniform cap— the képi blanc, his medals for service in Indochina, and a wooden plaque that had once hung in a Legion command post in Na San, in the mountains of northwest Vietnam, in 1953. The plaque bore the unit crestof the Deuxième Bataillon Étranger de Parachutistes. Engraved under­neath the crest was the Legion motto. Légio patria nostra—
The Legion is our country . . .
A year later the Deuxième Bataillon Étranger de Parachutistes had been destroyed at Dien Bien Phu.
Hagen’s father had been there too.
Bodo received a few more letters from Ronnie after he joined the Legion. The training was tough, his younger brother wrote him, but “sweat saves blood.” It was an old Legion maxim that Bodo had heard his father also invoke.
After initial training in Castelnaudary, Ronnie was assigned to a Legion detachment in the Comoro Islands, north of Madagascar. Later he was transferred to the Premier Régiment Étranger in Aubagne, France. Less than two weeks ago he’d gotten out of the Legion and flown home to Las Vegas.
Five days later he was dead.
Bodo Hagen got a phone call late on Friday night in Berlin from a man who had been a close friend of their father. His name was Robert Ipolito but Hagen had always known him as the Sniff. The Sniff didn’t know the details, only that Ronnie was killed out at the Hoover Dam. A gunshot to the head.
Hagen asked the Sniff if he’d take care of the funeral arrangements. On Saturday the Sniff faxed him documents to sign that allowed the Sniff to take custody of the body. On Monday the Sniff called to give him the details of the burial and the phone number of the funeral home so that Hagen could pay the tab.
On Tuesday, his affairs in order, Hagen packed a bag and caught a morning flight out of Berlin Tegel Airport for Paris, on his way back to Las Vegas to bury his only brother.
Now it was Wednesday.
The stop at the High Numbers Club had taken some of the edge off and Hagen felt better. He’d needed a drink. He’d probably want a few more before the day was over.
At the cemetery Hagen parked, pulled his gray sport coat on and walked through the front gates. Dried-out flower arrangements littered the brown grass around the grave markers. Hagen spotted a priest and two other men standing at a grave site on the far side of the cemetery.
The priest looked up from the leather-bound Bible he was reading from as Hagen approached.
“The Ronald Hagen service?” the priest said to Hagen, nodding toward the bronze-colored funerary urn that one of the other men held in his hands. The priest sounded hopeful—an audience of three was better than an audience of two. The priest wore a short-sleeve black shirt with a white priest’s collar. A crucifi x hung from his neck on a gold chain and a rosary with purple beads hung from his hand. A Catholic priest? Ronnie hadn’t been Catholic. Maybe the Sniff was Catholic. But it didn’t matter, Hagen knew.
“He was my brother,” Hagen said.
“May I offer my condolences.” The priest pulled his sunglasses down on his nose, looked over the tops of the rims at Hagen. “Would you like me to start over?”
“No, that’s all right.”
The priest returned to his Scriptures. Hagen looked across the small hole dug in the ground at the other two men. He didn’t know the short Asian man in the green suit who held the funerary urn before him as though it was a trophy he was showing off. Must’ve been a cemetery employee. Maybe this was his sole function—holding the ashes of the deceased at graveside services that no one showed up for.
But Hagen recognized the other man. A tall gaunt man in his fifties. A tan linen suit topped by an austere bolo tie. A white Stetson cowboy hat. A pair of dark aviator sunglasses hiding his eyes. His name was John McGrath and the last Hagen had heard he was a cop. A detective. Las Vegas Metro.
McGrath nodded to him.
The priest read on. Hagen watched the sweat roll down the side of the priest’s face. Must’ve been a hundred and ten degrees. The heat made Hagen feel sluggish. Hagen lowered his eyes. The freshly dug earth in the grave at his feet looked parched. The Ronald Hagen service—it was difficult to believe that Ronnie was dead. His only brother. Dead at thirty. He’d survived five years in the Legion only to come home and die.
The priest closed his Bible. McGrath coughed. The man holding the urn looked uncomfortable. The priest turned to Hagen.
“Would you like to say a few words?”
Hagen shook his head. “No.”
When the urn was in the grave the priest picked up a handful of dirt and let it fall between his fingers over the urn. Then Hagen did the same. He felt no emotion. The urn was only an urn and the ash inside wasn’t much different than the warm earth that now slipped between his fingers. The ash wasn’t his brother.
As soon as the priest departed the Asian man handed Hagen a business card, told him to call when he was ready to make arrange­ments for a grave marker. Then the Asian man hurried off and McGrath stepped up.
“How are you, Bodo?”
“Hello, McGrath.”
“I’m sorry about Ronnie.”
“What do you know about it?”
“We can talk about it when you’re ready.”
“I’m ready now.”
“Suit yourself.”
The two men started off toward the cemetery gates. McGrath lifted the Stetson off his head, smoothed his thin gray hair back on his scalp.
Hagen said, “Are you working the case?”
“I took it over yesterday.”
“Would’ve thought you’d be retired by now.”
McGrath tucked a cigarette into the corner of his mouth, lit it. “I’m a tired old dog, Bodo, but I’ve still got a few teeth left.”
McGrath suggested that they go to the station. McGrath could show him the police file. At present there weren’t any leads in the case. No witnesses, no hard clues other than the bullet that killed Hagen’s brother. The fact that Ronnie had only been in town five days didn’t help matters much.
“How did you hear about it?” McGrath said.
“The Sniff called me. He heard it on the news.”
McGrath nodded. He knew Robert Ipolito from the old days. He must’ve also known that the Sniff had taken custody of Ronnie’s body. “What else did the Sniff say?”
“Nothing. I asked him to make the funeral arrangements.”
“But he didn’t show up.”
“Why did you show up, McGrath? You weren’t close to Ronnie.”
“No, I wasn’t. But I’d like to know who was. I was hoping that some of them might turn up for his funeral.”
“There’s only you and me.”
As they approached the cemetery gates McGrath said, “Come to think of it, you weren’t here for your old man’s funeral. He’s buried here in this same cemetery. Did you know that, Bodo?”
McGrath offered to show Hagen the grave. The two men followed the low rock wall that surrounded the cemetery, then veered off to­ward a small barren tree. After a few minutes of searching they found it. A small bluish metal plate lying flat on the ground.
The inscription read simply:
wolfgang karl hagen 1926– 1991.

Excerpted from The Ragged End of Nowhere by Roy Chaney.
Copyright © 2009 by Roy Chaney.
Published in November 2009 by St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and
reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in
any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Meet the Author

ROY CHANEY has worked as a military journalist, photographer, newspaper editor, and as an investigator for the federal government. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

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The Ragged End of Nowhere 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
YY Yu More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I must say a very impressive first novel by Roy Chaney. After reading his smart, fresh and accomplished work of mystery, I can see why he was awarded the Tony Hillerman Prize for 2008. A very excellent first novel. I hope there is more to come. The Ragged End Of Nowhere is a quick paced, solidly plotted mystery, in which Bodo Hagen has to track down his brothers killer and locate the treasure his brother brought with him to Las Vegas before Bodo ends up like his brother - dead. He must do it in a very timely and covert fashion. The Ragged End Of Nowhere is a tense suspenseful murder mystery. From the beginning the reader is fascinated by the action. It is set in one of the most exciting cities in the world - Las Vegas, Nevada. Scenes change rapidly and seamlessly as the pace quickens in a very intriguing plot. The scenes are very creative, descriptive and imaginative. You can feel the cold blue gray steel of the gun on your skin, experience the sting of the bourbon flowing down your throat, see the steaming dark red blood on the pavement. Each scene is presented in a manner reminiscent of a Dashiell Hammett mystery novel. But yet uniquely - Roy Chaney's. Roy Chaney is a very gifted writer. His characters are superbly drawn and their interaction is natural in a way that rivets the reader. The Ragged End Of Nowhere is a strong first novel by Roy Chaney with an entirely likable, interesting and strong central character - Bodo Hagen. The book will leave you wanting more. I don't think we have seen the last of Mr. Hagen...or,...Mr. Roy Chaney. Debra Chapman
harstan More than 1 year ago
Ronnie Hagan has just returned home to Las Vegas after spending time with the French Foreign Legion. However, his welcome home is a bullet to the head near Hoover Dam. His brother Bodo, a CIA Agent stationed in Germany, returns home for the first time in a decade to learn the truth about his sibling's execution. Bodo soon learns his brother came home with a wooden artifact the "Dead man's Hand" that looks worthless yet apparently is priceless as several people want it. The operative wonders who would kill to possesses it and soon concludes a horde of nasty looking punks. As police detective John McGrath tells him to butt out, Bodo keeps digging, but the evidence makes no sense. The Hagan brothers are a strong pair as the insight into Ronnie is through a back story that includes his French Foreign Legion service, which makes him the more fascinating but also slows down the pace; ironically the readers get to know his motivations though dead rather than his living sibling. The rest of cast consists mostly of predators, who the CIA operative has to interrogate using Chaneyian enhanced techniques. Although the suspense is limited by the look back at Ronnie's life, fans will enjoy Roy Chaney's solid thriller. Harriet Klausner