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Reviews

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Parent Issue
Month
October
Year
1996
Copyright
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held By
Agenda Publications
OCR Text

By Jon A. Jackson Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994 264 pages, $22 In Crime fictíon there's agroup of writers who could easily be called the Detroit school. They present a kind of tough, no nonsense decaying urban world of extreme wealth, extreme poverty, paranoia, ethnicity, drugs and ever imminent violence. As one of its most eminent practitioners, Loren D. Estleman wrote "If anything had a violent past, present and future, it was Detroit." Compared to Estleman and E2rnoreLeonard,JonJacksonmay be one of the more obscure members of his class of writers, but like his mates, he's strong, tough, good and game. Jackson's latest book "Dead Folks" is the sixth book in his Sergeant Mulheisen series. Mulheisen is a Detroit cop, but along with its predecessor "Deadman," the plot could be better described as "Detroit comes to the West (and fouls its sacred waters with blood and handguns)." Perhaps mirroring Jackson's own move fromMotowntoMon tana, "Dead Folks" seems in a state of transition as it follows the recovery of Joe Service (aka Joe Humann), an "independent contractor" for the Detroit Mob. Service was shot in the head midway through "Deadman" and in this bookhe's had an almost miraculous recovery, and as he tries to make out nis own identity andrecenthistory through the dark glass of his brain damage, Mulheisen is simultaneously trying toperceive the same things. Slowly it's revealed to both of them that the root of the trouble is the multi-millions in cash that Service had stolen indirectly from the Mob - and that lots of people are getting killed over it. Service is clearly more interesting to Jackson (and therefore the reader) than the putative hero Mulheisen. Like Estleman's hitman hero Peter Macklin, Service is charming as only a criminal can be. A deadly pragmatist, an improvisatory küler with refmed tastes, Service lives life on the edge with brio and style. He's surrounded by a cast of fresh and instantly credible characters - murderous mobsters, two women who love him, one all innocence and the other all experience, a bewitchingditchrider.apsychotic hit woman and even a Tongan gang terrorizing Salt Lake City. It's a compelling brew, very knowing in the nuances of the urban slam dance, yet equally adept at portraying the still beauty of the West. Asanovel.however, "Dead Folks" just barely stands on its own as a discrete entity - it may be only barely comprehensible to the reader who hasn ' t first read "Deadman." With more ingenuity than precisión the jacket copy describes "Deadman" as "The prequel to 'Dead Folks,"' but in fact "Dead Folks" is a very close sequel to "Deadman." But if a reader really wants to get everything, they 'd have to go further back to "Hit on the House," or better yet, start with "The Die Hard," the first bookin this admirable series. There's also not a lot of closure here. There's a thrilling climax, butno re solution - it'smore like an episode in some great serial, complete with cliff-hanger. Even as Mulheisen finally confronts nis dopplegangernemesis Service in the compartment of a speeding train with a mobster's cold-blooded daughter and an empty coffin for company, the reader is already ready to see the next installment. It 's a compelí ing brew, veryknowing in the nuances of the urban slam dance, yet equally adept at portraying the still beauty of the West.

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