"Good Man Gone Bad: An Aaron Gunner Mystery," Prospect Park Books, by Gar Anthony Haywood
Twenty years ago, novelist Gar Anthony Haywood abandoned private eye Aaron Gunner to focus on other characters, but now the South Central Los Angeles sleuth is back in a wrenching tale of violence, betrayal and family dysfunction.
In "Good Man Gone Bad," he simultaneously tackles two investigations. The first is helping his new love interest, defense attorney Kelley DeCharme, defend an Afghanistan war veteran who's in prison for a murder he may not have committed. The second is more personal: an apparent murder-suicide that took the life of Gunner's cousin Del Curry and his wife while leaving their grown daughter in a coma.
Gunner, a Vietnam vet who still has flashbacks, has lurched into late middle age since he was last heard from in "All the Lucky Ones Are Dead," but he can still handle himself in a scrap and is as stubbornly persistent as ever. Good thing, because at first glance both cases look impossible.
The imprisoned Afghanistan war vet, who has post-traumatic stress disorder and suffers from blackouts, allegedly killed his boss after she fired him. He claims that he has no memory of the night of the murder, but his fingerprints are on the murder gun. Gunner thinks the case against him isn't just strong but too strong. He suspects a frame-up.
The murder-suicide also looks open and shut, all the physical evidence indicating that Del shot the others before turning the gun on himself. But Del was Gunner's closest friend and confidante, so he can't bring himself to believe it.
In the end, Gunner uncovers the ugly truths about both cases, although the way the murder-suicide is resolved comforts no one — least of all, Gunner.
Like the first six books in the Aaron Gunner series, this dark, brooding tale will remind readers of classic Southern California crime novelists Philip Marlowe and Ross Macdonald. Haywood's tight, no-frills prose is outstanding, and he does a fine job of developing the characters who inhabit Gunner's poor side of town.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including "The Dread Line."