The police said it was an accident, the dead woman's sister said it was murder... and that she knew who did it. Nameless isn't certain, but the more he learns about Nancy Mathias's life, the more inclined he is to accept the likelihood of murderespecially as the players still alive become more and more distasteful. Combine that with the situation Jake Runyon, one of the agency's partners, is facing as he searches for a young man who is either a murderer or a victim, and life at their San Francisco detective agency has everyone on edge.
About the Author
Bill Pronzini's novel, Snowbound, received the Grand Prix de la Litterature Policiere as the best crime novel published in France in 1988. A Wasteland of Strangers was nominated for best crime novel of 1997 by both the Mystery Writers of America and the International Crime Writers Association; in addition to six Edgar Award nominations, Pronzini has received three Shamus Awards, two for best novel, and the Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in northern California with his wife, the crime novelist Marcia Muller.
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SavagesA Nameless Detective Novel
By Pronzini, Bill
Forge BooksCopyright © 2007 Pronzini, Bill
All right reserved.
1 On Friday morning, I took Kerry to the U.C. Med Center for her first follow-up appointment with her radiologist and her oncologist. As I had during the long weeks of radiation therapy, I waited for her in the lobby. When she came out, as she had all the other times, she wore a small, determined smile. “So far so good,” she said. “What did they say?” “Come back in one month. Meanwhile go home, talk about cancer in the past tense, and live my life.” “Is that supposed to be encouraging?” “Actually, yes. As good as it gets at this point.” On the drive home to Diamond Heights, as on previous drives, we engaged in bright, upbeat conversation. Her spirits were always good in my presence, and I made sure that mine were in hers. It was vital that we maintain a positive outlook. Any doctor will tell you that mental attitude is important in the treatment of any disease, particularly one as life threatening as breast cancer. In the beginning it hadn’t been easy for us to remain upbeat, even though the odds were in our favor. Breast cancer is no longer an automatic death sentence for a woman; the survival rate is high when the malignancy is found and treated early. Still, the first couple of months are a pretty tense time. First we’d had to wait for the results of the DNA test to determinewhether her father was Ivan Wade, as she’d always believed, or her mother’s writer acquaintance and rapist, Russell Dancer. If it were Dancer, the situation would have been even more difficult, because he was dead now and had been an orphan and kept no personal records; tracing his family medical history would’ve been next to impossible. But the DNA test turned out right, thank God. Kerry was Ivan’s child. That was the first piece of good news. The second was that the tumor in her right breast proved to be relatively small and the cancer hadn’t become invasive; her oncologist, Dr. Janek, had recommended and performed a lumpectomy rather than a more radical type of surgery. Three weeks of healing time were followed by five weeks of radiation therapy—thirty-three treatments altogether, the first twenty-five focusing on the entire breast area, the remaining eight on the much smaller surgery site. The treatments made Kerry tired, listless much of the time. She hated the necessary tattooing of her skin—little blue dots so that the radiation machine could be placed in exactly the same location each time for maximum effect—and she developed a healthy dislike for her radiologist for what she called his “dehumanizing treatment” of his patients. But her body chemistry was such that she didn’t suffer the worst side effect, severe burning of the radiated areas that results in a painful condition the doctors call “skin breakup.” As it was, the cumulative effects produced some skin reddening and cracks toward the end of the schedule, made her skin feel stiff and rigid like cardboard. She insisted the soreness and discomfort were tolerable, but it hurt me every time I saw this outward abuse of her body—a constant reminder that the cure could sometimes be as savage as the illness. More cause for optimism at the end of the six-week period. The radiation bombardment seemed to have had the desired effect of killing any remaining infected cells. Dr. Janek was not recommending any other treatment at this point, no drugs that might cause weight gain and night sweats and be a constant reminder to Kerry that she was still an at-risk cancer patient. When the radiation therapy first started, Kerry had slept a lot, spent her waking hours in bed or propped up on the couch in the living room, reading, watching TV. Gradually, as her body adjusted, she was able to function more or less normally for short periods, do little things around the condo, take short outings. And she’d made arrangements with Bates and Carpenter to handle a limited amount of work from home. Her energy level now was such that she felt she would be ready to go back to work full-time in ten days. I thought that was a little premature, but if Dr. Janek gave his permission I wouldn’t try to talk her out of it. Long, hard two-plus months. For me, for Cybil, Kerry’s mother, who was eighty-three and in shaky health herself, and for Emily. When we first told the kid, she’d had some trouble coming to terms with it; she had suffered so much loss already in her young life, the sudden deaths of both her natural parents, and the prospect of losing her adoptive mother as well was devastating. If the breast cancer diagnosis had come two years ago, Emily might not have been emotionally equipped to weather it, as fragile as she’d been when she first came to live with us, but she was stronger now, more mature, more secure. Once the initial shock passed she’d shown the kind of strength and courage we’d hoped for. As for me, I’d all but quit working during July and August, so I could be with Kerry at the hospital every day and take care of Emily and the household chores and bring Cybil over from Larkspur for periodic visits, since she was no longer able to drive long distances. I didn’t get much sleep, had no appetite, and lost ten pounds. Tension and anger lived in me day and night. The first few times I saw Kerry pale and tired after radiation, then later that spreading burn on her chest, the frustration I felt was so great I wanted to hit something—a wall, a door, something. Because I loved her and I couldn’t stand to see her like that. Because there was nothing I could to do to help her. All I could do was watch, wait, hope, pray, remain positive—passive roles that go against my nature. There was anxiety, too, constant and insidious. Despite all the good news and reason for optimism, there were no guarantees that Kerry would continue to be a survivor. Cancer is a devious goddamn disease. You think you’ve got it beat, all the signs point in that direction, and then without warning it can flare up again in the same spot or in some other part of the body, and if it does, then maybe it will be invasive; maybe you won’t survive. You can never be completely sure this won’t happen. You can never feel completely safe. We both knew that, but we never mentioned it. Once during the first week of radiation therapy I came home after running an errand, walked in quietly, and heard Kerry crying in the bedroom. Great, heart-wrenching sobs that tore through me like knives. She never wept when I was around, not so much as a single tear. I know that crying is a healthy thing for a woman, a form of cartharsis, but I don’t seem able to cope with it; it turns me to jelly inside, unmans me. I slipped out even more quietly, wandered around the neighborhood for a while, and made a lot of noise when I let myself back into the condo. Kerry was dry-eyed and smiling in bed. Episode over and done with, as if it had never happened. But not forgotten, not ever, by me. I hated those devious, unstable bastard cells in her body and what they had done to her emotionally as well as physically. A greater, more virulent hatred than I’ve ever felt for anything or anybody in my life. Copyright © 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Savages by Pronzini, Bill Copyright © 2007 by Pronzini, Bill. Excerpted by permission.
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