MOBTOWN

Jack Kelly, Author . Hyperion $23.95 (271p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6615-1

Set in 1959 Rochester, N.Y., this excursion into noir from the author of Line of Sight owes much to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, though it captures little of their panache. As divorced ex-cop-turned-PI Dwight "Ike" Van Savage (an attempt to evoke both Eisenhower and Doc Savage?) trails philandering Eddie Gill, a husband and father of four involved with a 16-year-old girl, Ike's thoughts turn to his own 10-year-old daughter: "I didn't want to think of her growing up in a world of Eddie Gills." True to the classic tradition, Ike's soon in over his head: a young woman named Sandy Mink turns up in the morgue with her throat cut; Gill is the prime suspect because Sandy knew he was running guns for local mafioso Joe Petrone. But that's just the beginning. Many dead bodies later, Ike confronts the killer in a pyrotechnic finish, yet the mystery itself, with all its attendant twists and sanguinary episodes, doesn't satisfy as it should. An unwelcome sense of déjà vu hangs over the proceedings, while the period details, despite numerous, desultory topical references (What My Line?, The Seven Year Itch, the Patterson–Johansson heavyweight fight, George "Superman" Reeves's suicide), fail to convince. In addition, the plot is so diffuse that things occasionally come unglued, and decent tough-guy Ike remains no more than a crude sketch. Kelly's medium-boiled style has been likened to James M. Cain's hard-hitting prose, but it's clear, based on this outing, that he's not yet in that league. (Jan. 9)

Forecast:With plugs from such big names as Donald Westlake, Joe Gores and George P. Pelecanos, as well as the movie release late in 2001 of Protection, for which Kelly wrote the screenplay from an earlier novel, Mobtown may well garner plenty of publicity and sales.

Reviewed on: 11/19/2001
Release date: 01/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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