If the literary world were a horse race, Loren Estleman's name
would be "Cult Favorite." He would be one of those horses who would
always win, place or show; he would never throw a shoe, never
stumble, and always put forth his best effort. He would never
disappoint. He has created an incredible, enviable body of work,
primarily in the mystery and western genres. Amos Walker is his
finest, most enduring character, a rumpled knight who is always
true to, and honest with, himself.
SINISTER HEIGHTS revisits familiar territory for Estleman and
Walker, that being Detroit and its surrounding environs. The
assignment begins simply and innocently enough, with Walker being
retained by Rayellen Stutch, the young widow of Leland Stutch, one
of Detroit's wealthiest and oldest industrialists. Mrs. Stutch
retains Walker to find Stutch's illegitimate heirs for the purpose
of bestowing upon them part of her enormous inheritance. It is an
elementary, noble job that begins to go wrong almost from the point
at which Walker leaves the Stutch driveway.
Walker discovers that the family he is looking for is a textbook
example of dysfunctional: the battered wife is in hiding, the
abusive husband is hunting her, and their young son is a pawn.
Walker gets in the middle, as he will, but this act places him and
someone he loves in terrible danger. When the young son is
kidnapped after an act of terrible violence, Walker is forced into
a showdown at the Stutch family factory, an aging mausoleum to
another era that will not give up its secrets without payment of
dear and bitter coin.
Estleman, as always, is magnificent, neatly but quietly delving
into Walker's character while seamlessly peeling away layers of
plot. Estleman has not forgotten that he is writing mysteries, and
there are plenty of them within SINISTER HEIGHTS. Some you will
guess, others only will be revealed by finishing the book. But
you're going to do that anyway.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011