cover image A Wasteland of Strangers

A Wasteland of Strangers

Bill Pronzini. Walker & Company, $21.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-3301-6

While some readers may resist the ending, Pronzini (the Nameless Detective series; Blue Lonesome, etc.) plays fair and spins a nifty page-turner. Fast-shifting first-person narratives from various characters (a lovelorn police chief, a spouse-battered waitress, an alcoholic newspaper editor and others, all speaking in instantly identifiable voices) build this tale of small-town meanness and its lethal consequences. Big, ugly John Faith arrives in Northern California's Pomo. Locals are disturbed by his scars, his battered Porsche and by his brooding insistence on privacy. An inflammatory editorial, written drunk, in the weekly newspaper sets almost everyone in town against Faith. The police chief sees Faith apparently running away from the bludgeoned body of Storm Carey, rich widow and practicing nymphomaniac, and tries unsuccessfully to arrest him. Shot and wounded by the chief, Faith flees into the forest, heading for the lake. During the ensuing manhunt the fugitive is aided and abetted by an unlikely trio of women. The story fairly tears along to the jolting climax. Even after everyone has his or her say in the epilogue, readers still don't know John Faith's secrets. But that mystery is more haunting than maddening. Pronzini's newest story is a gem. (July)