THE WALKAWAY

Scott Phillips, Author . Ballantine $22 (304p) ISBN 978-0-345-44020-4

A tinted review in adult Forecasts indicates a book that's of exceptional importance to our readers, but hasn't received a starred or boxed review.

THE WALKAWAYScott Phillips. Ballantine, $22 (304p) ISBN 0-345-44020-X

Phillips turns the image of Kansas heartland virtue upside down in his latest noir thriller set in Wichita's underbelly, in which all the big city problems—drugs, prostitution, corrupt cops and psycho killers—are present on a somewhat smaller and seedier scale. The year is 1989, and Gunther Fahnstiel, a retired cop in the memory-loss ward of an expensive nursing home, escapes to wander through a Wichita he only intermittently recognizes. His mission: to find a briefcase of money he buried in a rock quarry 10 years before. His wife, Dot, suspects what he's up to, though she doesn't know where he is; what she does know is that the money has already been dug up and spent, on Gunther's care among other things. Gunther's stepson, Sidney, to whom Gunther once gave $12,000 to buy a strip joint, attempts a payback by setting up a reward in the same amount for anyone who finds Gunther. This motivates sleazy Eric Gandy to search for Gunther; Eric is the son-in-law of Sally Ogden, who used to coordinate orgies at the rock quarry. With this information in place, Phillips segues into the book's other time frame—1952—in which readers are treated to first-person narratives by the menacing Wayne Ogden, Sally's husband, as he goes on a crime spree, and the younger Gunther, as he tracks Wayne down. In what's identified as "both a prequel and a sequel" to The Ice Harvest, Phillips pens a story full of blood and bad attitude. (Aug.)

Forecast:Phillips's debut made him a finalist for an Edgar, an Anthony and a Hammett. His sophomore effort is a bit grimmer, a bit less funny, but is likely to draw in admirers of The Ice Harvest, as it features several of the same characters.

Reviewed on: 04/15/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
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