NOTE THIS IS cassette version. 2 audio cassettes, apx. 3 hours, read by John Kenneth...
Amos Walker has a sharp eye and a sharper sense of the absurd. Pair these with a dry wit and a fondness for Scotch and you've got Detroit's answer to Philip Marlowe. Just trade the fedora for a Tigers' baseball cap. Loren Estleman's acerbically philosophical PI has been going strong for 13 novels and shows no sign of slowing down. In a funky, meta-textual noir riff, A Smile on the Face of the Tiger immerses Walker in the world of '40s and '50s American pulp fiction, where men clench lantern jaws and women (sorry, dames) wear silk stockings and cause trouble.
When a New York publisher asks Walker to track down author Eugene Booth, who's refusing to allow his classic Paradise Valley to be reissued, Walker's first instinct is to say no. But Booth's novel, about a Detroit race riot in 1943, fascinates Walker, especially after he finds Booth's dictation tapes. Booth has "a low fuzzy bass that might once have been rich and pleasant before too much whiskey, too many cigarettes, and three or more trips too many around a rundown block had hammered it into that dull monotone you hear at last call and over the loudspeaker in the eleventh inning of a pitchers' duel." Walker discovers that it's not just whiskey and cigarettes that have affected the author. His wife was murdered 50 years ago to prevent Booth from spilling the truth about the events he fictionalized.
Walker traces Booth to a rundown motel on the shores of Lake Huron. His presence there is no surprise, given his fondness for solitude and fish. But why is mobster Glad Eddie Cypress, who should be gearing up for a big book tour, holed up at the same motel? When Walker finds Booth swinging from the rafters, he decides to find out. When the number of people who wanted Booth dead starts multiplying, and a 50-year-old race riot and murder move back into the spotlight, Walker is hard-pressed to keep himself from becoming history.
Estleman's sardonic prose (the Detroit River is "the only spot on the North American continent where you could look across at a foreign country without seeing either wilderness or tattoo parlors") makes A Smile on the Face of the Tiger move energetically along. This noir veteran, never content to rest on his laurels, has produced another gritty winner. --Kelly Flynn