As it happens that the modern world of crime fiction is full of silly protagonists with even sillier names, Bill Pronzini in the year 1971 decided to create a protagonist without a name. And, thus started the series of private investigator crime fiction featuring NAMELESS. And, truly the first book in the series shows us the depth of the statement, “What’s in a name?” because without a name, NAMELESS comes out as an original, one of a kind tough guy, who in his own admission is a not a hero, but who is just a cop. And like other true cops sees fighting crime as his duty.
Gary, the 9 year old son of millionaire Louis Martinetti, gets kidnapped from his school. And then Lou gets a ransom demand of three hundred thousand dollars. To deliver he calls upon Nameless. He takes up the job, and on the anointed time goes for the drop. In the process he gets mugged, and slashed by a knife. Eventually managing to get to a hospital he realises that both the money and the kid is gone. Nameless accepts Martinetti’s offer to work for him, and in the process finds out the kid and solves the mystery.
Going by the benchmark of a crime novel, the book is a standard whodunnit. Laced with subtle twists, the plot is fast and believable, with a reasonable ending. The character of Nameless is what grabbed my attention. Without a name he comes out as a person whose emotions, fears, sadness could be related to. I could personally relate to the emotions behind his love for pulp-magazines, or the sadness he feels when his relation goes to the docks made me feel sad too.
A must read for any crime fiction fan. Nameless and Bill Pronzini are both stalwarts in the world of crime fiction. And not reading his work is almost a capital crime.