Marla Bernstein is a pretty, dark-haired teenager who also happens to be the ward of Ben Morningstar - a semi-retired mobster who prefers to keep family business out of the newspapers. When Marla suddenly disappears, the gang boss is forced to call in private eve Amos Walker, who quickly learns his new employer doesn't take "no" for an answer when he offers a job opportunity. Unfortunately, the only clue to Marla's whereabouts is a pornographic photograph that clearly proves that she's become part of a world that disgusts even her criminal guardian....
Detroit's favorite private investigator, Amos Walker, barrels through this collection of five short stories by Shamus Award winner Loren D. Estleman. General Murders upholds Estleman's reputation as a master of the short story. Both card-carrying fans of Amos Walker and those who are new to the series will devour these stories as they, with Walker, expose crime in some of the most corrupt alleys and steamy streets of Detroit.
What could be more innocent than watching old movies? For Neil Catalin, a wealthy man with a happy home, old-fashioned pictures were a hobby that became an obsession. But he wasn’t watching The Wizard of Oz. Crime movies were his passion, the sort where life is cheap and death is free, and Catalin sank himself into them as an escape from the stresses of suburbia. Now he has disappeared, and his wife believes the clue may be in his collection of gruesome classics.
The tabloids were full of it. Constance Thayer, after a night of clubbing, drinks, and drugs, had taken an automatic pistol from the collection of her industrialist husband Doyle Thayer Jr. and emptied it into his back, as he lay naked and unconscious in their Iroquois Heights home. The news of Constance Thayer's X-rated past breathed new life into the scandal for another month. Walker's job was to gather enough dirt on the late Mr. Thayer to make his widow look clean by comparison. What he found was a monstrous magnate, a dubious corpse, and a gang of country-style gunrunners.
Tracking down a runaway wife is run of the mill. That's yesterday's blues. But finding the trombonist father of black, beautiful, reformed hooker Iris threatens to blow up into the case of a lifetime. The trail Amos Walker follows through Detroit's smoky music clubs leads him to dens of hard crime and harder drugs - where Iris and Amos will be lucky to escape with their lives, much less the truth about a past packed with menacing secrets. And that's no jazz.
Countless tragedies occurred during the 1967 Detroit riots, and one of them belonged to Richard DeVries. A 22-year-old black man about to play for the Pistons, he was spotted tossing a Molotov cocktail at an abandoned building, arrested on the spot, and then charged with robbing an armored car. 20 years later he’s free, and the first man he calls on is Amos Walker. With 20 years of savings he buys a month of Walker’s time, asking for help finding the men who robbed the armored car. DeVries has already paid for stealing that $200,000, and now it’s time to collect it.
Barry Stackpole was tough once. Amos Walker met him in a Cambodian shell crater when Walker was serving his country and Stackpole was on the payroll of the Detroit News, and they formed the kind of bond that war often creates. At war’s end, they returned to the Motor City, where Stackpole took to reporting crimes and Walker to solving them. A violent run-in with a big time mobster left Stackpole a leg and two fingers short, and he became an alcoholic. He has made several attempts to get his life straight since, but never quite managed.
Bela Lugosi's Frankenstein screen test puts Valentino in the picture for murder.... Everyone knows Frankenstein's monster was played by Boris Karloff. His portrayal is so famous that the play Arsenic and Old Lace was filled with Karloff/monster jokes - even when the part of the deformed villain was played by another actor. But before Karloff's memorable portrayal, another 1930s Hollywood icon, Bela Lugosi, tested for the part of the monster. The test footage was lost for decades, until Valentino, that never-say-die film archivist, gets a hot tip about the whereabouts of the incriminating (for really bad, heavily accented acting) footage.
Spring has come to Detroit's Sugartown enclave, and Amos Walker would like to feel kindly toward the human race. Unfortunately, his first case of the new season immediately leads him into trouble among the Polish settlers of neighboring Hamtramck, when old Martha Evancek hires him to look for her missing grandson. But even before Walker gets a chance to investigate, he's presented with a second case: an eminent Russian novelist who fears that someone is out to kill him.
Enter Valentino, a mild-mannered UCLA film archivist, who buys a decrepit movie palace and uncovers a skeleton in the secret Prohibition basement. He then makes a second discovery: long-lost, priceless, reels of film: Erich von Stroheim's infamous Greed. The LAPD wants to take the reels as evidence, jeopardising the precious old film.
On screen, Sandy Broderick is everything a newscaster is supposed to be. He has a deep voice, a 10,000-watt smile, and the God-given ability to banter with weathermen until his ears fall off. But when the cameras turn off, he has a private problem: His 20-year old son, Bud, has disappeared. Amos Walker is going to find him. The boy and his junkie girlfriend are both gone, and Broderick is terrified - not for his son, but for his career. The station is about to do an exposé on drugs in Detroit, and the newscaster doesn’t want his boy’s addict girlfriend to get in the way of his Pulitzer.
Ater a tour in Vietnam and several years working the streets of Detroit as a private investigator, Amos Walker has seen a lot. But he’s never encountered anything quite like his newest assignment. Ann Maringer, an aging stripper hard at work at one of the city’s many low-grade joints, hires him to find a missing person: herself. She expects to disappear any day now, she says, and she wants to be found.
The second wacky comedic murder romp for Hollywood film detective Valentino. Valentino wants to keep The Oracle, his beloved run-down movie palace, from being condemned before it even reopens, but murder keeps intruding into his otherwise quiet life. At a gala party held in memory of screen legend Greta Garbo, he's having fun until the host, a hotshot developer named Rankin, tells Valentino about a certain letter from Garbo to his late wife. She and Garbo had been...close. Such a letter is of great interest to a film archivist like Valentino. But the plot thickens when Rankin tells Val that his assistant, Akers, is using this letter to blackmail him.
When Amos Walker was a teen, he had a poster of Gail Hope on his wall. A 60s bombshell in the beach-blanket tradition, she has fallen hard since her glory days as one of the dying studio system’s final starlets. But when she calls on Amos Walker she remains as lovely as ever: an elegant beauty with a $750,000 problem.
In 1944, after Al Capone has been released from prison, J. Edgar Hoover assigns an FBI junior agent to insinuate himself into Capone's life and gain his trust so that Hoover can nail as many of Capone's Mob confederates as possible. Capone, suffering from the neurological effects of syphilis, is alternately lucid, full of the passion and energy that fueled his rise to the pinnacle of American crime... and rambling or ranting, the broken shell of a man released from prison so he could die at home with his family.
Jay has never forgotten the photo once sent to him of his young fiancée - naked in the arms of another man. Now on his deathbed and convinced the photo was a fake, the hunt is on for a modern-day witchfinder. And Amos Walker is the man for the job.