Buyer Beware by John Lutz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A man hires Alo Nudger to retrieve the daughter his ex-wife absconded to Florida with. Nudger finds the daughter and winds up tied up in another case entirely, a case involving her mother, a millionaire's missing daughter, and the mysterious deaths of businessmen all over the country. Can Nudger find the daughter or is it already too late?
Over the last six months or so, I've been exercising more retraint than usual in regard to buying books. Unfortunately, I had a hankering for a detective yarn over the weekend and discovered I didn't have any on my unread pile. I decided to give John Lutz's Alo Nudger a chance and I'm glad I did.
Nudger's not your typical detective. He specializes in retrieving children that have been kidnapped by one of their parents following a divorce. He lives in a trailer, just barely getting by. He's not handsome, brave, tough, or quick-whitted. He's smart, though, and tenancious. He reminds me of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder to a degree. Both are former cops that left the force and both are driven by guild for past sins. In Nudger's case, he was having an affair with an alderman's wife and booted from the force. Shortly thereafter, his wife left him and took their two kids. She remarried awhile later, only to be killed in a car accident with her new husband and Nudger's two kids.
When I started Buyer Beware, I had no idea how complex it was going to get. He found Clark's missing daughter in just a few pages, before getting ensnared in the web around the child's mother. Like Lawrence Block, Lutz had me guessing for most of the story. I had no idea what was going on until the last forty pages or so. I felt like I was learning the details along with Nudger and could never manage to get ahead of him in the story of Gratuity Insurance and the connections it had to various players in the story.
Another thing I liked is that Lutz resisted the temptation that many detective fiction writers succumb to. While there were two or three attractive women in the story, Nudger didn't wind up in bed with any of them. Or even get close. I hate when writers force a hookup just to do it.
I guess I'd better wrap this up or the review is going to wind up being as long as the book. While the down on his luck detective thing has been done, John Lutz manages to inject enough life into Alo Nudger that I'll be looking for more of Nudger's cases in the future.
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