Three grisly deaths kick off Simon's fiction debut, a stylish noir thriller set in Austin, Tex., in 1988. A prostitute named Nikki, well past her glorious prime, is suffocated; politically active college student Rick Schate is crushed by a city bus; and stand-up cop Joey Velez dies in the line of duty. This last death is most significant to volatile protagonist Dan Reles, homicide detective and Joey Velez's best friend and partner. Reles went into an alcoholic tailspin after Joey's death, which led to suspension and then probation. Now someone is sending parts of Nikki's body (she's nicknamed Dirty Sally by police) to prominent local citizens, and the Schate fatality looks increasingly suspicious. Reles hopes to climb out of ignominy by cracking these two cases. Unfortunately, Sally's not the only dirty one: some of Reles's cop colleagues are crooked. Though the novel is anchored in Reles's brooding, yearning narrative, Simon challenges the reader with myriad sharp asides that seem unrelated but ultimately fit neatly together. Watching them fall into place is one of the chief pleasures of the book, along with Simon's lean sensual prose. This is a great read and promising series kickoff. Agent, Nat Sobel. (Aug.)
Forecast: Praise from James Ellroy—"Dirty Sally is my kind of novel"—and a seven-city author tour should help get this strong debut off to a good start.
Release date: 07/01/2004