In olden times Loren Estleman would have been regarded as a master craftsman. He’s sixty plus books into a more than impressive career, setting the bar high in both the Western and the Private Eye genres, while also writing the occasional standalone as well as a couple other mystery series (Peter Macklin, Valentino). This outing is the 22nd in his Amos Walker franchise, the present gold standard for private eye mysteries. Sure, there are other private eye masters at work right now – Robert Crais, Steve Hamilton, and S. J. Rozan come to mind – but for the pure, traditional private eye experience no one can beat Estleman.
Mystery fans like to kvetch when an author takes a break from a beloved series in order to write a stand alone. At our signing for The Lock Artist, his fans practically wouldn’t let Steve out of the store until he promised that his next book would be an Alex McKnight.
But the fact is that there are many upsides to stand alones. One, of course, is the possibility that the book in question is an instant classic that, say, wins the Edgar award for best mystery novel of the year. (To put it in sports terms, Steve has now won the equivalent of Rookie of the Year and MVP.) Another is that writers are often able to return to their beloved series refreshed after a stand alone, gaining a new focus and perspective after stepping away for a while.
Some writers (and no doubt their editors) feel the need to begin a book with an ostentatious bang, something along the lines of a graphic torture killing or a dramatic explosion. True masters like Loren D. Estleman know how to ease into a narrative, gradually turning up the heat until things are at an irresistible boiling point.