In my ongoing quest to keep trying new (to me) authors, I recently picked up the audiobook of Camouflage, number 38 in author Bill Pronzini's "Nameless Detective" series. (So much for sticking to my rule of starting series only at the beginning.) Unfortunately, it has turned out to be a real struggle for me to write about this book because, only a week later, there is so little about it that I still remember.
So here's what I am able to recall: the novel follows the paths of two separate crimes told through alternating chapters. "Nameless" is investigating the disappearance and possible murder of one of his clients while his colleague, Jake Runyan, is checking into the possibility that his girlfriend's young son is being physically abused by the boy's father's new fiancee. Since the two cases are in no way connected, their pairing here seems only to be a device for fleshing the book out to novel length. The references that were made to characters' back stories seemed to have been done more as a tip of the hat to the series fans than as a way of providing useful information to newcomers like me.
Mostly what bothered me about this book was that the plotting was nothing out of the ordinary; I in no way felt challenged by any of the proceedings. The identity of the bad guys in both of the story lines was never really much in doubt and I was even able to predict who was going to get shot way before it actually happened. The climactic action scene involving "Nameless" and a colleague was also pretty far fetched from a logistical standpoint.
I know I must sound very cranky here, but I was also not a fan of the narrator who I am deliberately choosing to keep "nameless" here. The distinctions he made between the voices of the main characters was anything but subtle. The voice of Bryn, Jake's girlfriend had the whiny quality of someone doing a deliberate female impersonation while the voice assigned to Jake was that of a testosterone laden growl. This was clearly a case where less would have been more.
I'm left to wonder whether Camouflage is a typical example of books from the "Nameless Detective" series or an indication that it has perhaps run out of steam. In addition to being nameless, more than anything else, this detective also felt overwhelmingly generic. And thinking about it, I'm not even sure why the book was given the title camouflage.
Although I didn't hate this book in the way that I have hated a few of the others that I've written about here, I most certainly didn't love it either.
Postscript: I received an email from my friend Bob, offering a gentle reprimand for my incorrect spelling of the word excoriate in last week's post. Bob is absolutely right - I need to hold myself to the same standards to which I hold others with regard to proper spelling. Mea culpa.