Amazing book – not so much for the plot or the characters as for the whole package. Set in a mythical city, presumably in the Midwestern US, this story involves two major plotlines – the police chief, who has just buried his wife, has decided to buck the system he’s supported for years and actually enforce the law, even in “the circle,” the part of town ruled by criminals. And someone is butchering women and leaving their parts in garbage bags around the city. Both of these plotlines intersect in a hotel detective and erstwhile alcoholic pimp, who comes out of his haze when he has a chance to do some real detecting.
Estleman has always had a yen for the past (in books like Retro) but here the world of Gas City is hermetically sealed, a world unto itself, where people occasionally use phrases that are from the 1930s and yet the police chief has a son who died years ago in Vietnam. Though it’s somewhat disorienting, it’s a richly detailed, internally consistent, and lavishly described fictional universe, full of lyrical passages and sometimes hilarious throwaway lines.
This is one of those books you have to give yourself to. Adapt to its pace, savor the lines, and don’t worry about what time it is.