Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Retro by Loren D. Estleman
MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations
491238,224 (2.75)None



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

First reviewed at Blogcritics at

I was at the library and I saw a copy of "Retro", the newest book in Loren D. Estleman's series of Amos Walker novels. I hadn't read any of the other novels, and I am always on the lookout for a new series. I am glad I didn't pay for it. I can't say if this is weaker work by an otherwise capable writer, or an average story within a modest series. If you have invested time in following this character in other stories, you will enjoy this book, but otherwise you could spend your reading time on many better books.

In this story, Amos Walker is hired by an elderly retired madam to find her adopted son, who had fled to Canada in the 60's after being involved in a Black Panther style bombing plot that had misfired. The story then spins into the adopted son's lineage, and the death of that man's real father - a promising boxer - gunned down in an unsolved murder in the early 50's.

The better points of the book (and perhaps the series) include Estleman's sense of place and his descriptions of Detroit and his description of minor characters. He also works in some stories about the popularity of boxing in the early days of television and the racial politics of Hollywood in the 1940's and 50's. He has a good sense of sense of pace and suspense, and his story moves along smoothly.

Unfortunately the central serial character Amos Walker, a middle-aged private investigator in Detroit, is a windbag given to twisted metaphors and gumshoe philosophizing. It was so over the top that I wondered if Estleman was writing a parody. The plot is convoluted and the murder's identity and motivation are a flight of fantasy.

Estleman's research on some issues is off. He has Walker travelling to Toronto to interview the fugitive who complains about Canada's "General Services Tax". A moment of research would have told Estleman that the 7 percent federal Goods and Services Tax is only one of two annoying Sales Taxes that most Canadians pay, and that his character could also complain about the 8 percent Ontario Retail Sales Tax.

The dialogue is uneven. There are some good scenes but there is a lot of unrealistic pulpish dialogue.

I have heard that Estleman writes better in the Western genre than the mystery genre, and I get the impression that Amos Walker sells steadily and pays the bills. ( )
  BraveKelso | Oct 26, 2008 |
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0765304481, Hardcover)

"Have you noticed how often the word 'retro' occurs in today's advertising?" a white-shoe lawyer muses in Loren D. Estleman's Retro. "It's used to sell everything from ballpoint pens to wings of hospitals. These days, backward is the new forward." Which clues you in right away to the plot orientation of this short-fused 17th novel (after Poison Blonde) featuring Detroit private eye Amos Walker, a character who's always been nostalgic for the era of mobsters and molls and dialogue gritty enough to chip teeth.

Estleman here reaches all the way back to his first Walker book, 1980's Motor City Blue, in order to resurrect Beryl Garnet, a once-prominent whorehouse operator with a laugh "like Tinkerbell on crank," now in residence at an assisted-living facility. She hires the detective to find her not-too-bright adopted son, Delwayne, and make sure that he's given her ashes after she dies. Trouble is, Delwayne has been on the lam ever since his association with a 1968 plot to blow up the Detroit Federal Building in protest against the Vietnam War. Months later, and with the assistance of a vintage FBI agent and a politely proficient Canadian PI, Walker pins down his quarry in Toronto and hands over the late madam's "cremains." But Delwayne isn't satisfied; he wants our hero's help in solving the 1949 shooting death of his unacknowledged father, Curtis Smallwood, a black heavyweight boxing champ whose affair with a white Hollywood s! tarlet threatened her career. When, soon after this, Delwayne is murdered in a supposedly secure Detroit airport hotel--with the same .38 revolver that killed his father more than five decades before--Walker goes digging for answers. Along the way, he unearths a New York gangster's grandson, a mother with a record-setting case of hate, an overeducated mistress with leaving on her mind, and an electronic bug in his office that takes all the fun out of talking to himself.

Nobody these days outperforms the three-time Shamus-winning Estleman when it comes to penning wisecracking repartee--a reminder of the American detective story's deep roots in pulp fiction. ("Are you afraid of the police?" a would-be client asks, to which Walker responds: "Terrified. They’re armed and they drink a lot of coffee.") Yet, while the Amos Walker series upholds many genre traditions, it has also grown beyond them, both as a result of the author's finely honed prose and Walker's willingness to recognize himself as an anachronism. A melancholy appreciation of the Motor City's often unsavory history just adds to the attractions of Estleman's work. --J. Kingston Pierce

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:48 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Amos Walker has made a lot of friends - and a few enemies - in his years as a detective in Detroit, but he has never had to deal with quite the trouble he finds when he agrees to grant the deathbed wish of Beryl Garnet. Beryl was a madam with a long, successful career. She's got no regrets about that, but she does about her son. She hasn't seen him in a long time and would like him to know his mother never forgot him. So she asks Walker to make sure that her son gets her ashes when she's gone." "He obliges her, finding her son, who has been in Canada since the 1960s, evading the law since he was a Vietnam War protester. A simple favor, melancholy, but benign. Except that before he can get settled back in Detroit, Garnet's son is dead, and Walker is the prime suspect.""He has little choice but to find out who might have done the deed and tried to pin the blame on him and in the process he discovers another murder, of a prizefighter from the 1940s. Curtis Smallwood was the father of Beryl Garnet's son. And it that wasn't bad enough, the two murders, fifty-three years apart, were committed with the same gun."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
4 avail.
3 wanted
3 pay1 pay

Popular covers


Average: (2.75)
1 1
1.5 1
3.5 1
5 1


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 92,301,153 books! | Top bar: Always visible