cover image Neon Mirage

Neon Mirage

Max Allan Collins. St. Martin's Press, $18.95 (275pp) ISBN 978-0-312-01484-1

The fourth chronicle of Collins's Nate Heller (True Detective et seq.) is set in Chicago and Las Vegas in 1946. When a gangster shoots the private detective's client, gambler James Ragen, Heller assigns himself to investigate the case. During his sleuthing, Heller meets and falls in love with Ragen's niece, Peggy Hogan. She's one of the few fictional characters in the nostalgic story that features real people and parallels actual incidents of the times. The assault on Ragen is a minor part of the events when Heller and Peggy become involved with Ben (""Bugsy'') Siegel, Virginia Hill and other notorious mob figures in Las Vegas. Generating suspense, the author describes Siegel's murder with the detective at the scene and details the shaky beginnings of the Flamingo Hotel, Siegel's unrealized dream of a luxury mecca for gamblers. There is such immediacy in narrator Heller's voice that the reader doesn't need the afterword about the novel's historic base. (February 23)