Thursday, March 30, 2017

Review of Dead Skip by Joe Gores (Mysterious Press, 1972)

Former boxer, Bart Heslip, is working a repo-man for Dan Kearny Associates, a private investigation firm in San Francisco.  After dropping off a car late at night Heslip is attacked from behind, put in a car, and rolled over the side of a hill, leaving him in a coma.  While the police conclude that he was drink driving and lost control, his colleagues disagree.  Heslip’s close friend, Ballard, sets himself the task of running down the attacker within 72 hours.  He suspects it must be related to one of the many cases that Heslip was working on, but working out which one and then locating them is not going to be straightforward.

Dead Skip, first published in 1972, was the first book in the Dan Kearny Associates series that charted the work of a private investigation company in San Francisco.  Gores worked as a PI for twelve years and his knowledge of how to track down people and property is evident in the story.  In this case an employee of DKA is attacked and left in coma, the crime crudely faked as a road traffic accident.  A young investigator, Ballard, hunts for the killer, aided by Kearny himself.  The strength of the book is in the procedural elements and the pacing.  Gores keeps the prose tight and focused on the action.  The result is a story that moves along at a fair clip, but somewhat at the expense of characterisation, which is mainly inferred from behaviour and dialogue.  Moreover, there is little in the way of backstory – in many ways, the storytelling is like a television script.  The plotting is nicely done, with Ballard unearthing new clues and chasing an elusive killer, though I wasn’t quite convinced by the denouement.  That said, it was an enjoyable, quick read.


Rick Robinson said...

Gores is a favorite author, and this book is a darn good one. Anyone who enjoyed P.I. stories should read it.

Mathew Paust said...

I've only read Hammett by Gores, and now have just ordered Spade and Archer. Thanks, Rob.