A series of seemingly random murders along a fifty-mile stretch of the rugged northern California coast, committed by an unknown dubbed by the media the Coastline Killer. A young couple with marital problems, Shelby and Jay Macklin, who decide to spend the week between Christmas and New Year's at a friend's remote coastal cottage. Two couples in a neighboring home whose relationships are thick with festering menace. A fierce winter storm that leads to a night of unrelenting terror. These are the main ingredients in Bill Pronzini's chilling and twist-filled tale about the hidden nature of crime and its motives.
When Nameless is hired by Cory Beckett, a beautiful young woman who claims to be a model, to find her missing brother, Kenneth, it seems to be a routine matter. Kenneth has fled San Francisco in a drug-induced panic to avoid trial on a charge of stealing a valuable necklace from the alcoholic wife of the man for whom he works, wealthy yachtsman Andrew Vorhees. When agency operative Jake Runyon locates and questions the frightened young man, Cory Beckett's motives come into question and the case takes on darkly sinister complexities.
Cory lied to Nameless about her livelihood, her relationship with Vorhees, her brother's alleged drug use, and the nature of his alleged crime. Not only is she Andrew Vorhees’ mistress, Cory has a secret second lover, factory owner Frank Chaleen, with whom she conspired to frame Kenneth. This bizarre sibling betrayal is part of a diabolical plan that reveals her to be a deadly, designing woman who will stop at nothing to achieve her warped desires.
Quincannon’s pursuit of two con men who have absconded to Hawaii with a considerable sum of his employer’s assets dovetails nicely with Sabina’s vision of a second honeymoon.
But neither is wont to stay out of trouble, and Sabina inadvertently becomes involved in a locked room/dying message murder in Honolulu.
Emotionally exhausted from the events surrounding his partner’s suicide, “Nameless” welcomes the chance for a quiet vacation that comes when San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Patrick Dixon proposes that the burnt-out detective drive Dixon’s wife and son to their summer cottage on a remote High Sierra lake. In exchange, “Nameless” will have a week’s free use of a neighboring cabin.
The same week, unknown to both the assistant DA. and “Nameless,” also among the vacationers at Deep Mountain Lake is a recently paroled explosives expert, Donald Michael Latimer. The timing is not coincidental, for Latimer has meticulously devised a warped plan for revenge against the men who sent him to prison. His viciously ingenious boobytraps have already claimed the lives of two of his intended victims, and at Deep Mountain Lake he has lined up his next three targets: Pat Dixon, Dixon’s twelve-year-old son, and “Nameless” himself.
A harrowing tale that builds with relentless suspense to an edge-of-the-chair climax, marks another triumph both for the sleuth cited by the as “the thinking man’s detective” and for his creator, Bill Pronzini, whom the praised as “an exceptionally skilled writer working at the top of his ability.”
Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services is a fixture in San Francisco at the dawn of a new century. While the future is unclear, Sabina and John know one thing for certain; they will protect their clients from flimflammers, thieves, and murderers, and do whatever it takes to run these dregs of society into the arms of the law.
Sometimes, that requires a subtle touch. Professor A. Vargas, self-styled medium extraordinaire, and his partner Annabelle, use guile and trickery to swindle bereaved men and women eager to contact the spirits of deceased loved ones. John and Sabina must not only unmask these charlatans, but also solve the riddle of an impossible murder in the midst of a séance.
Other cases involve brute force and personal danger. Such as the theft of a burglarproof safe mysteriously emptied of gold bullion. And John’s pursuit of a ruthless gang of counterfeiters, whose leader appears to be a man from John’s past in the Secret Service — a man thought long dead.
Adding spice to these exploits is Sabina and John’s personal relationship, which is rapidly progressing to an exciting new level.
A simple case of blackmail gets lethally complicated when “Nameless,” Bill Pronzini’s seasoned private-eye, exposes a nasty scam that involves junior accounts executive Jay Cohalan, his unhappy wife, and a mistress with a serious drug problem. It’s the kind of case “Nameless” likes, because bleeders — the blackmailers, extortionists, small-time grifters, and other opportunists who prey on the weak and gullible — sit near the top of his most-worthless-human-beings list. So he contemplates with pleasure the prospect of putting another one or two of these parasites out of commission, and then returning the $75,000 in cash to its rightful owner.
“Nameless” discovers, though, that he is not going to be able so easily to close his Cohalan file — not when he finds his client face down in the middle of a four-poster bed with a bloody, powder-scorched hole behind the right ear. And only by a hair’s breadth does “Nameless” himself escape a similar fate. Aggrieved, cut to the psychological quick by his close brush with death, “Nameless” embarks on a relentless hunt for his unknown assailant in San Francisco’s shadowy underworld. There he encounters bleeders of every ilk — like the loan shark Nick Kinsella, drug dealer Jackie Spoons, punch-drunk boxer Zeke Mayjack, and crankhead Charlie Bright — before he tracks down his quarry.
At a deserted backcountry road stop “Nameless,” packing his long-unused .38, attends to the last of a bad business and, in a climax as powerful as it is unexpected, finally confronts his own demons. He maybe even conquers them.
John Faith is a stranger in the isolated town of Pomo in the wilds of Northern California. Who is he? Why show up now, during the off-season, when there is nothing to do but get into trouble? He is big, ugly, and “strange,” so it is no wonder that he arouses suspicions or inspires threats. His swift departure is fondly desired by almost all who cross his path. When a beautiful, lonely woman is brutally murdered after spending time with him, Faith is the prime and logical suspect. Discovering the identity of the killer becomes as important to Faith as it is to everyone else... except the murderer.
Two novellas and two short stories featuring Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Bill Pronzini’s iconic Nameless Detective!
In the second short, , readers discover how, indeed, one thing just leads to another (First published in as ).
The final work, , is another original novella and entangles Nameless in a weird crime with fearful occult overtones.
Beyond the wrought-iron gates and behind the stuccoed facades of the Spanish-style houses in the affluent California community of Greenwood, a murderous maze of deceit, adultery, fraud, and betrayal awaits the private eye hailed by the as “the thinking man’s detective” in this ingeniously contrived mystery novel by two-time Shamus award-winner Bill Pronzini.
Not that larceny among the rich comes as a surprise to “Nameless.” Indeed, even before he visits the handsomely appointed offices of the blond, tanned insurance agent Rich Twining and the estate where the recently widowed Sheila Hunter lives uneasily with her wary ten-year-old daughter, the private investigator’s darker suspicions have been aroused. For why would anyone, no matter how moneyed and beautiful and bereaved, refuse to claim fifty thousand dollars due to her in life insurance?
The question is simple enough. The answer, though, lies several murders, many miles, ten years, a deviously contrived name game, and one baffling word clue — away.
Shaken after a hair’s-breadth escape from death, Nameless has made changes in his professional life, but he’s not put himself out to pasture. Again he enters San Francisco’s shadowy underworld, this time in a search for the identity of a gentle, mentally disturbed homeless man who has been found dead in an alley doorway. Clues are few, but eventually they bring the Nameless Detective to the small California town that drove the nameless victim tragically to murder and madness.
An empty train yard at midnight. A small cabin bathed in the light of a full moon. A seedy Skid Row hotel in San Francisco. These are the places where fear lives. Collected for the first time are 26 terrifying stories that span nearly three decades in the career of this master writer of suspense and horror.