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Shackles (1988): I Want Out

Bill Pronzini, Shackles (Dell, 1988)

[originally posted 5Dec2001]

A masked assailant shackles nameless on the book's cover.

Kink and twist.
photo credit:

Bill Pronzini has been writing “nameless detective” mysteries for nigh on three decades, and I never picked one up until a got a bag of books from my mystery-loving mother a few months ago containing Shackles. Committing the heresy of reading a series novel out of order, I decided to crack the cover and see what all the fuss was about, assuming there is any fuss surrounding a non-A-list mystery writer. There isn’t, really, but in this case there probably should be.

Shackles has “nameless” abducted by an old enemy—we’re not sure who until the closing pages—and spirited off to a remote cabin somewhere in the dead of winter, chained to the wall, and left with thirteen weeks’ worth of food, some reading material, a dying space heater and radio, and a cheery warning that suicide is probably preferable to starving to death. Needless to say, this ain’t your typical hardboiled detective offering. Pronzini carries it off nicely, adapting readily to the slower pace that such a book is bound to have (no pun intended) and keeping the reader’s interest nicely. The pages fly on this short novel (roughly 250 pages) as nameless spends his time alternately bemoaning his present state of affairs, trying to figure out who it was that stuck him in this mess, and accepting that the world has probably left him for dead. A fun little book, and a decided change of pace for mystery fans. Worth picking up. ***

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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