cover image In an Evil Time

In an Evil Time

Bill Pronzini. Walker & Company, $23.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-3353-5

A cancer-stricken father goes head-to-head with his daughter's abusive ex-husband in this sturdy, rewarding thriller by veteran Pronzini. Angela Hollis thinks she has escaped her obsessed second husband, David Rakubian, when she wins a divorce settlement and refuses any award. Rakubian, a piranha trial lawyer, refuses to recognize the divorce anyway and threatens Angela and Kenny, her young son from her first marriage, with death if they do not return to him. Angela's father, Jack Hollis, a successful architect just diagnosed with prostate cancer, decides the only way to guarantee Angela's safety is to kill Rakubian himself. Secretly working out a murder plan, Jack persuades Rakubian that Angela will come back to him and gets him to agree to a meeting. When Rakubian doesn't show, Hollis goes to his exclusive neighborhood and finds his body in the dining room, his skull bashed in by a statue of Poe's raven. Who beat Jack to the punch? His estranged and volatile son, Eric? His business partner, Gabe Mannix, long in love with Angela himself? Angela's cowboy first husband? Or had Angela herself finally had enough? Death threats further unsettle the would-be murderer, and the terror builds to a climax when Kenny is kidnapped at gunpoint. Pronzini (Nothing but the Night) deftly explores the dynamics of a family in crisis, protecting its own while fending off threats from within and without. The San Francisco-area setting lends the right atmosphere, and PI Sharon McCone, the creation of Pronzini's mystery author wife, Marcia Muller, makes a cameo appearance. The reader may guess the culprit long before disclosure and Jack's impulsive conclusions on scant evidence occasionally annoy, but Pronzini pulls out all the stops as he builds up to a very tricky ending. (Apr.)