cover image Incinerator: A Simeon Grist Mystery

Incinerator: A Simeon Grist Mystery

Timothy Hallinan. William Morrow & Company, $19 (268pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10343-9

Hero/narrator Simeon Grist ( The Four Last Things ) has become tiresome. Here he willfully alienates his lady love, his best friend and the L.A. cops, while his macho posturing in a deadly duel with a homicidal pyromaniac almost gets him killed. Private eye Grist, former professional student, gets a taunting note from ``the Incinerator,'' whose latest human torch is Abraham Winston, addled Chicago billionaire. Winston's iron-willed daughter has hired Grist and publicly flayed the LAPD. More murders and increasingly personal Incinerator notes follow, and Grist seems to be the ultimate intended victim. In earnest psychobabble, Hallinan evolves a picture of clubfooted misfit Wilton Hoxley who's come to identify with Hephaestus, the legendary forger of Zeus's thunderbolts. After a long, long spell holed up in his Topanga shack Grist goes after Hoxley at the crowded Renaissance Faire. The fiery climax mainly shows Grist's masochism brought on by stupidity: readers will keep thinking, Call the cops, dummy! The hardboiled prose at times blunders outrageously: ``The lipstick decorated a mouth that was about as yielding as the Maginot Line.'' (Mar.)