Retro (Amos Walker Series #17) [NOOK Book]


Loren Estleman is the quintessential noir detective writer, and Amos Walker is his quintessential noir detective. Walker has made a lot of friends--and a few enemies--in his years as a detective in Detroit, but he has never had to deal with quite the trouble he finds when he agrees to grant the death-bed wish of Beryl Garnet. Beryl was a madam, but she had a son a long while ago, and asks Walker to make sure that her son gets her ashes when ...
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Retro (Amos Walker Series #17)

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Loren Estleman is the quintessential noir detective writer, and Amos Walker is his quintessential noir detective. Walker has made a lot of friends--and a few enemies--in his years as a detective in Detroit, but he has never had to deal with quite the trouble he finds when he agrees to grant the death-bed wish of Beryl Garnet. Beryl was a madam, but she had a son a long while ago, and asks Walker to make sure that her son gets her ashes when she's gone.

He finds her son, who has been in Canada since the 1960s, evading the law since he was a Vietnam War protester. A simple favor, melancholy, but benign. Except that before he can get settled back in Detroit Garnet's son is dead, with him as the prime suspect.

He has little choice but to find out who might have done the deed and tried to pin the blame on him. . . and in the process he discovers another murder, of a boxer from the 1940s, Curtis Smallwood, who happens to have been the man's father. If that wasn't bad enough, his task is made much more complicated by the fact that the two murders, fifty-three years apart, were committed with the very same gun. And in a place where it was impossible for a gun to be.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

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Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
Loren D. Estleman makes his strongest stand for the pure, unvarnished glory of the classic American private eye in Retro, whose tongue-in-cheek title tells you what you need to know about Amos Walker.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Reading a new Amos Walker adventure is like settling down and listening to an old, reliably entertaining friend. In this 17th book in the series (after 2003's Poison Blonde), Beryl Garnet, a dying madam, summons the Detroit detective to find her long-missing son, Delwayne, to whom she wishes to leave her ashes. Since Delwayne fled to Canada during the Vietnam War in the 1960s, Amos gets a Canadian counterpart to trace him. Soon after Amos meets the son, he winds up dead, and Amos becomes the main suspect in his shooting death. Amos later discovers that Delwayne's dad, a talented black boxer, was murdered in the 1940s-and a single gun killed both father and son. A sucker for damsels in distress, Amos encounters more than one as he digs down into the muck for the real murderer. Estleman keeps Walker determinedly low-tech: he goes to the library, pores over records and does his own legwork. He riffs on the city and gently ribs Canadian culture across the river. Why does Amos drive to Toronto? It's a chance for him to smuggle back a box of alleged Cuban cigars, a longstanding Motor City tradition. In the process of setting things right, Amos has to let go of some old and new attachments, leaving the reader eager for more. Agent, Dominick Abel. (June 2) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Forbes Magazine
Gritty, gripping mystery by one of America's ablest yet underappreciated novelists. Estleman has been fittingly compared with Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. In this tale our hero is Amos Walker, a thoroughly unmodern private investigator whose heart and soul belong to the Detroit of the 1940s, '50s and early '60s. He's a loner, who smokes and drinks and still thinks a BlackBerry is a fruit. (15 Aug 2005)
—Steve Forbes
Kirkus Reviews
A juiceless Chandler-Macdonald rehash raises the dread question: Are Estleman's best days retro?You've probably never heard of Beryl Garnet, but in her time she was quite a big-name brothel-keeper. Now that she's dying, she wants Amos Walker to deliver her ashes to the son she hasn't heard from since Priapus was a pup. Locating him may be a problem, the once gaudy bawd acknowledges, but the gig's worth it. As it happens, the delivery job is simple. Delwayne Garnet has been living openly in Canada for umpteen years, ever since he ducked out to avoid serving in Vietnam. Amos delivers the ashes, all right, but is now forestalled by the complicated part. Though avowedly unimpressed by the outer Amos-"You're pretty independent for a man in a J.C. Penney Suit," he tells the shamus-Delwayne employs him to find his father's murderer. Before Amos can do that, however, Delwayne himself is offed, killed by a bullet from the same gun that killed his dad 53 years ago. After a smidge of ratiocination, a couple of obligatory beatings, dollops of verbal tilting with thick-headed thugs and outclassed cops, and a bout of endemic Weltschmerz, Amos finally closes the case. After 17 mostly sterling outings (Poison Blonde, 2003, etc.), Amos has earned his place in the Shamus Hall of Fame. But when cutting-edge dialogue dulls to yadda yadda, it may be time to hang up the gumshoes.
San Diego Union Tribune

"Nobody does the hard-boiled private eye novel better than Loren D. Estleman."

The New York Times Book Review

"Loren D. Estleman makes his strongest stand for the pure, unvarnished glory of the classic American private eye in Retro."

San Diego Union-Tribune
Nobody does the hard-boiled private eye novel better than Loren D. Estleman.
From the Publisher

“Loren D. Estleman makes his strongest stand for the pure, unvarnished glory of the classic American private eye in Retro.”

The New York Times Book Review

“Nobody does the hard-boiled private eye novel better than Loren D. Estleman.”

San Diego Union Tribune on Retro

"Loren D. Estleman is a master.  He is one of my heroes.  If you love the classic private eye novel and haven't met Amos Walker, man, you are in for a treat."

—Harlan Coben

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429911818
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 4/1/2007
  • Series: Amos Walker Series , #17
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 337,391
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Loren D. Estleman was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a BA degree in English Literature and Journalism in 1974. In 2002, the university awarded him an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters for his contribution to American literature.

He is the author of more than fifty novels in the categories of mystery, historical western, and mainstream, and has received four Western Writers of American Golden Spur Awards, three Western Heritage Awards, and three Shamus Awards. He has been nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award, Britain's Silver Dagger, the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. In 2003, the mammoth Encyclopedia of Detective Fiction named him the most critically acclaimed writer of U.S. detective

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Read an Excerpt


What do you do with an old madam when she's peddled her last pound of flesh?
They never had any ambivalence about it in the old days. If she'd saved her money, they propped her up in a gondola bed piled high with satin pillows, parked her opium pipe among the crystal atomizers and pots of face cream and scent, and when the time came they carried her downstairs in a white coffin and buried her in a Protestant cemetery, Presbyterians and Methodists being notorious for their democracy. If her circumstances were straitened, the sisters of charity drifted to and fro past her bed in a ward smelling of quicklime and carbolic, put a damp cloth on her forehead when she moaned, and at the end gave the gravedigger's boy a coin to dump her in Potter's field.
That was in the old days. The new belonged to the self-employed, and whorehouse matrons had no more place than gondola beds or nuns in stiff linen. Why spring for a parlor and a bouncer when streetcorner space is free? Beryl Garnet was the last of her kind, and her reward for outliving all her contemporaries was the Grenloch Assisted Living Village in Farmington, an eighth of a tank of gas north of the house she'd run on John R in Detroit for nearly forty years.
The facility sprawled over six acres of greensward, with a retention pool-the Grenloch that had given the place its name--in front, where overfed ducks and geese paddled their feet and littered the surrounding walk with their waste. The building's facade had been made to resemble a Scottish hamlet, steep-roofed, half-timbered, and girded round with decorative ironwork for fat lairds to lean on and direct the monthly whipping of the serfs. The Dutch doors were plastered to solid brick. In order to get inside, I had to park in a half-empty visitors' lot and tug open a faux chapel door with a steel core.
The foyer was large, with shining black-and-white checkered ceramic tile and a white baby grand piano waiting for some old fish to sweep aside his tails and plunk himself down on the padded bench and trundle out Chopin's Sonata No. 3 in B Minor. Meanwhile the residents had to make do with the Dixie Chicks. The P.A. was cranked up to hearing-aid level.
I found Beryl's room number on a wall directory, black with white plastic lettering that snapped in and out, suitable for discreet editing when rooms turned over. It beat erasing names from a blackboard.
A maintenance worker installing a wall rail directed me to the nursing wing, where residents who needed a little more than just assistance were sequestered. This was separated from the rest of the facility by a fire door with a gridded window set into it. There the carpeting and potpourri ended and the linoleum and disinfectant began.
"Who you here for?"
I looked down at the man seated in a vinyl-upholstered armchair in the corridor. I'd have had to walk around him to ignore him. He was thin and bald, with long arms and legs in an electric-blue jogging suit zipped to his wattles. His withered-apple face was bright-eyed and he appeared to have most of his teeth, unless he'd had them made crooked on purpose. I told him who I was there for.
He shook his head. "Don't know her. I ran the Detroit Edison office downtown for twenty-seven years. Took a hundred thousand in a lump sum to retire. That was in nineteen seventy. If I knew I'd live this long I'd have taken the pension. You make your choices in this life and you stick with them. As if you could do anything else."
"I guess that's true."
"Don't just yes me because I said it. You don't know me. I might be a liar."
"You might be, at that."
"Well, I'm not. Back in seventy, a hundred thousand was so big you couldn't see around it. I've seen around it now, and there's nothing in back. What do you do?"
"I came to tune the piano."
"Horseshit. You look like a cop to me."
"It's the gum soles."
"Who'd you say you're here for?"
"Beryl Garnet."
He looked at the wall across the corridor. It was finished in corkboard, with childrens's; pictures drawn in bright crayon thumbtacked all over it. He mouthed the name a couple of times. Then he shook his head again. "Don't know her. You make your choices in this life and you stick with them."
"As if you could do anything else."
He squinted up at me as if he'd just realized I was there. Then he pointed a finger at my chest. "You're pretty smart for your age. You take the pension when they offer it."
I said I would and left him. I turned a corner and stopped at a nurses' station. A plump, sweet-faced redhead in her twenties smiled when I told her who I was visiting. She wore a floral smock and had a blood-pressure indicator draped around her neck. Another nurse twice her age sat on a low turning stool speaking in murmurs on the telephone to someone she called Mortie. Lines 1 and 3 kept on flashing all the time I was standing there, and an oval glass fixture mounted above one of the doors in the hall glowed on and off with a querulous buzz. It didn't have anything to do with me.
"She'll be happy to see you," said the redhead. "She doesn't get many people."
"I think a gentleman around the corner may be in the same boat."
"You must mean Wendell. He stakes out that spot every day about this time. Did he tell you he used to run the Edison office in Detroit?"
"He advised me to take a pension."
"He tells everyone that."
"I don't get a pension," I said. "No one's ever offered me a hundred thousand, either."
"You should tell him. It might make him feel better."
I was tired of talking about Wendell. I'd expected the visit to depress me, but not before I'd made it. "How is Beryl?"
Her smile turned noncommital. "Are you a friend or a relative?"
"She's in good spirits. She tells the most outrageous lies about her past."
"Any of them involve the old mayor?"
She looked down suddenly at a chart on the desk. I felt a little better then. It isn't every day you make a trained health-care professional blush.

Copyright © 2004 by Loren D. Estleman
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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2012


    My dog is retro

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2005

    Old-Fahioned PI Yarn

    Retro is Loren D. Estleman¿s best Amos Walker novel in years. It is an old-fashioned story of murder, boxing, and mobsters. Amos Walker is the modern equivalent of Philip Marlowe. He has the same romantic yet world-weary attitude and is quick with a wisecrack. Estleman reports on Detriot in the same way that Chandler critiqued 1940s Los Angeles. The ending has a few holes in it but the book is good enough to make you forgive its lapses.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2004


    How appropriate to have a thriller based in Detroit read by a Detroiter! Veteran voice performer Mel Foster can summon many voices yet in this reading he returns to his roots. He sounds just like a Michigander, and a tough one at that. Estleman's creation, Detroit detective Amos Walker, can handle almost any situation. He's seen a lot in that city pierced by Belle Isle and rimmed by the upscale Grosse Pointes. Yet, he's not at all prepared for what's in store for him following the death of Beryl Garnet. Beryl was really something before she went to the great beyond. She was a madam who would make the contemporary Heidis seem inept. She enjoyed a lengthy tenure in the Motor City and made a small fortune. However, the lady has one last wish: she wants Walker to deliver her ashes to the son she hasn't seen in a number of years. Her plea is that she wants her son to know that he's always been in her heart. Well, Walker does have a soft side, so he goes in search of Beryl's offspring. The young man is soon located in Canada; he's a draft dodger. He need dodge no longer because shortly after Walker finds him Beryl's son joins his mom in the heavenly kingdom. Of course, Walker is a prime suspect in this murder. Obviously, Walker has to find the real killer in order to clear himself. For this smart Detroit detective that doesn't sound like much of a challenge - until he discovers one more killing. This time the victim is the father of Beryl's son. Now, mother, father, and son are perhaps traipsing about the clouds. But, it's not at all heavenly for Walker here on Earth. - Gail Cooke

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