In the tiny Amador County town of Six Pines, Pete Balfour is in his usual foul mood. His nemesis, Ned Verriker, just won’t let up. He is constantly riding him. It’s bad enough that Balfour is so repugnant that he can barely stand the sight of his own self, but Ned has the townspeople laughing at him every time he turns around. Something needs to be done.
Meanwhile, Bill and Kerry have been looking for a second home, one that’s not a long drive from San Francisco. In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, shortly before the Independence Day festivities, they think they may have found the right place in Six Pines. They like it so much that they decide to extend their stay. They should have gone home.
"Bill Pronzini’s Nameless Detective series will continue to draw fans with this newest installment. Full of small-town dynamics and fleshed-out characters, HELLBOX is a wild read and nearly impossible to put down."
At a local café one morning, they witness an unpleasant scene when Balfour comes in and causes quite a stir: “I noticed him because I was facing toward the entrance and he made some noise shutting the door behind him. He was in his forties, homely to the point of ugliness, wearing old clothes and a scowl on a mouth the size of a small trough.”
In Bill’s words, he was a man not having a good day…or a good life. It wasn’t just Balfour’s looks that got people going on him; he had an outlook to match, owning one of the foulest dispositions in the county. Naturally, his meal at the diner doesn’t come off real well and he storms out, cursing the lot of them. All of his pent-up hatred starts to fester.
Later, with the weather so beautiful, Kerry decides to take a short walk in the woods while Bill is off fishing. This is unfortunate timing, because Balfour has just been up to no good and Kerry’s natural friendliness lands her in deep trouble. Balfour curses his luck --- as if Kerry’s is any better --- and, almost without thinking, grabs her and stuffs her into his backyard shed. He’s not the brightest guy in Six Pines, but he does know how to put together a plan. It takes him a while to hit on just the right one, but once he does, it's sure to be a doozy.
Back at the cabin, Bill grows frantic when Kerry doesn’t return. He tries the local sheriff’s office, but their hands are full, what with the Fourth of July celebration so near, drawing tourists from everywhere to fill up their little town. Besides, the lady has only been missing a few hours. Technically, the cops don’t spring into action until 48 hours have passed. So Bill calls in his old pal, Jake Runyon. A private investigator like himself, Jake knows how to run a search. But they need a break. Mostly, they need for Kerry to survive long enough for them to track her down.
Bill Pronzini’s Nameless Detective series will continue to draw fans with this newest installment. Full of small-town dynamics and fleshed-out characters, HELLBOX is a wild read and nearly impossible to put down.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on August 10, 2012