Nightwork - Joseph Hansen
The seventh in the Dave Brandstetter series and if youíre not hooked by this time, you never will be. This is set only a few months after the events of Gravedigger, and physically and emotionally Dave and Cecil still carry the scars of that case. Cecil is home, being nursed by Dave, but he wonít eat and wakes up in the night feeling worthless and ruined. It breaks Daveís heart to hear him.
The story cleverly matches the mood of the book, toxic waste poisoning the environment just as Cecilís pain and fear seeps like poison into their relationship. Dave is feeling his age, too, wondering why heís still chasing around dangerous mountaintops with people shooting at him when heíll never want for money again. The book is set in the crime-ridden, gang dominated streets of L.A., too, where Daveís poor Jaguar car is a metaphor for decency: itís being taken apart one piece at a time as he parks in these dangerous streets.
Thereís a huge amount of tense emotion in this one. I love that Dave has opened up (he can even think about Rob and admit that heíll never stop missing him) but it makes me fearful for him now. Heís not quite so tough, so invulnerable. His love for Cecil has made softened him, but it saves him, too.
An impressively plotted book with deep emotions running through it. Iím so thoroughly hooked now that these characters are like friends. We have the whole series tracked down and on order now. I canít bear the thought of coming to the end.
Cecil is just out of hospital several months after the near-fatal shooting at the end of Gravedigger.† Meanwhile Dave is freelancing for Pinnacle Insurance investigating a truck driver, Paul Myers, killed when his truck plunges over a cliff while doing nightwork to earn extra money for his family.† Myers had testified against recently paroled local gangster Ruiz who threatened to kill him.† Heís No 1 suspect, but Dave doesnít think heís guilty- and his hunches are usually right.
What was the dead man doing up a canyon at 3:00 a.m., what was in his truck and who was he working for?† Myers took out life insurance the month before his death but if he lied to the insurance company about the stuff he was handling the pay-out will be cut.†
Myersí wife Angela shows signs of a beating.† Dave doesnít peg the dead man as a wife batterer and reckons whoever abused her is the killer.
Times are changing and not for better: the social and economic upheaval of the 80s, racial division, over-development, crime, gang warfare and alienated youth.† Parts of LA are more like Beirut, with terror and open war making normal life impossible.†
Dave frets about Cecil, so thin and fragile, yet leaves him alone to get bored and lonely while heís out all hours.† Itís not as if he needs to work either.† But thatís Dave.† And in his way Dave lets Cecil know life is better when heís around.
Dave is beginning to feel his age, plus he worries that Cecil is depressed.† Getting him to help out is good for Cecilís morale but saps his strength and places him in danger again.† Dave buys a gun, something heíd always resisted:† the game he loves has turned nasty and lethal and he canít rely on his wits anymore for survival.†
Dave contemplates retirement but if youíve been following the series youíll know itís never going to be enough to relax and enjoy life with Cecil no matter how much Dave loves him.† Not while thereís evil out there, unscrupulous companies dumping toxic waste, flouting inadequate regulations and using violence to enforce silence and compliance, destroying lives and livelihoods and despoiling the landscape.†
Daveís frustrated anger and worried concern for Cecil is a long way from that emotionless shell of the earlier novels.† Loving Dave sure ainít easy, as poor Cecil has discovered, but Dave needs him and their relationship is the best thing about this book.†
As usual thereís a carefully developed cast of supporting characters with their own stories, like old queen Gifford with his thing for hot young Latinos.† This book is one of my favourites in the series.† Its contrast between decent folk doing their best to get by and moneygrabbing despoilers of Californiaís beautiful land mixed with believable romance makes compelling reading.†
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