cover image Blood and Thunder: 4

Blood and Thunder: 4

Max Allan Collins. Dutton Books, $21.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93759-3

This time politics absorbs Chicago series shamus Nate Heller, whose adventures (in Carnal Hours, etc.) place him in the middle of the century's most dramatic crimes. It's 1935, and the dogged, skirt-chasing Nate is working as a bodyguard for populist Louisiana loudmouth and political loose cannon, Senator Huey Long. Long is tough and brash, and his lengthy list of enemies includes former employees, the oil industry and anyone ever subjected to one of the verbal shellackings for which he's famous. Trouble is, when the ``Kingfish'' is shot, his psychotic henchmen open fire with a vengeance, making it hard to tell exactly where the fatal bullet came from. At the urging of Long's widow, herself aglow with thoughts of double indemnity, Nate matches bullets to guns and guns to trigger fingers, all the while playing house with one of Huey's canny concubines. As always, Collins's sense of place and time is unerringly acute, and he happily indulges in re-creating Long's fiery stump style. Although Collins has carved out a mystery subgenre that he occupies nearly alone, he and his detective would be a tough act to follow even if they did have a serious rival or two. (Aug.)