Dan Reno (pronounced Renno) is a maintenance alcoholic who works for a detective agency whose penny-pinching owner he despises. But he gets along well enough with his ex-wife to be invited to a family wedding, that of one of her relations to the son of a business tycoon in Reno (the town). The wedding never happens though, because the groom is murdered the night before, during the bachelor party. His grieving father hires Dan on the spot to find out who’s responsible. $100,000 to identify the killer, then leave the rest to him.
Dan takes the job, and gradually learns that the dead man was not the person people thought he was. He had been involved with some very unsavory, dangerous people, and Dan is soon struggling to save his life – and that of his cop friend Cody, who comes to help him – in the dangerous mountain country around Reno. Organized crime and corrupt cops both want them to back off, and are willing to kill them if they don’t get the hint.
That’s the premise of Stateline, a throwback to classic hardboiled formulas in a contemporary setting. The book grew on me. Dan seems a little sleazy at the beginning of the story, but as we get to know him he displays some decent qualities, especially in his treatment of women. I grew to like him. The book, in spite of all the vice it describes, has a moral center.
The writing in Stateline is sometimes spotty. I was put off by some infelicities in the style. But it wasn’t bad enough to make me delete the book from my Kindle unfinished (it’s free for Kindle, at least this month). I might mention that I’m reading the sequel now, and the quality of the prose has improved.
Not a bad novel. Cautions are in order for language, drugs, sexual situations, and some serious violence.