SMOKE-FILLED ROOMS: A Smokey Dalton Novel

Kris Nelscott, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-312-26265-5

The second novel about black PI Smokey Dalton safely works formula situations—the sensitive detective, the child-in-peril—against the backdrop of rioting during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In the first book in the series, A Dangerous Road (2000), a 10-year-old became the only witness to the real killer at the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., with Smokey his sole protector. Now, months later, they're in hiding, though Smokey's idea of concealment consists of working security at the high-profile Conrad Hilton Hotel, as well as taking on a missing-child case in their neighborhood when he knows a shadowy figure is watching his every move. Nelscott, the penname adopted by science fiction writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch for these mysteries, has selected a powerful historical era, but almost wastes it by indulging in genre clichés. She even pulls in the archenemy from the past and the inevitable tagline, "This had become personal." Evident haste leads to occasional funny moments, such as the doofus lines—meant to invoke suspense—when Smokey goes to rent an apartment: "The faint odors of stale sweat and perfume filled the hallway. Someone had been here before us." The building is inhabited, Smokey. Fans of modern PI novels may enjoy this one, but it makes a very poor substitute for authentic black crime writing from that turbulent era, much of which is available in reprint. (Aug. 20)

Forecast:Given the Edgar nomination of A Dangerous Road and strong general interest in this historical period, this second Smokey Dalton novel should generate some sales, but poor reviews and weak word of mouth will put a lid on the book's prospects. The author also writes romances under the name Kristine Grayson.

Reviewed on: 06/25/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 336 pages - 978-0-312-98290-4
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-0-615-86388-7
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-7406-1
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