THE MAN WHO FOUGHT ALONE
The fourth book in bestseller Donaldson's "The Man Who..." mystery series (previously written under the pseudonym Reed Stephens) continues the story of ex-PI Mick ("Brew") Axbrewder and his search for redemption after the accidental shooting death of his own brother. Brew and former partner and lover Ginny Fistoulari are barely speaking to each other, but she won't leave him until he's healed from the gunshot wound he received taking down the local drug lord. Gone to ground in a new city, Ginny finds work with old college friend and PI Marshal Viviter. Despite his scorn for martial arts violence—and his self-doubt about working without Ginny at his side—Brew takes a job working security at a martial arts tournament. The tournament centerpiece, a display of priceless antique "chops" (Chinese print blocks) depicting martial arts poses, has stirred up bad blood between the area's rival martial arts schools over its ownership and murky provenance. A murder at the tournament seems unrelated, but Brew connects it to the chops. While Donaldson inadvertently gives away the killer's identity midway through the book (though Brew somehow doesn't put it together), the murderer's full motivation is revealed slowly enough to maintain tension. The author's shotokan karate experience (he's a second degree black belt) lends the martial arts scenes an authoritative touch. Fans of Donaldson's better known fantasy (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series) and his cranky, self-involved antiheroes will find familiar enough territory to satisfy them. (Nov. 26)
Forecast:Donaldson hasn't written a mystery for more than a decade. Depending on advertising, the book may well do better with crossover SF and fantasy fans than genre mystery readers.