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Dead Skip by Joe Gores

First published in 1972

Barton Heslip has had a good day, repossessing three cars for his employer, DKA. Back at the office, he calls his friend and co-worker Larry Ballard, then steps outside to collect some paperwork from his car. Someone emerges from the shadows and hits him with a sap. Now Heslip is in a coma, having been pulled from a car that went over a cliff, and Dan Kearny, founder of DKA, has given Ballard 72 hours to find the man who tried to kill Heslip. As time begins to run out, Kearny joins the hunt.

Dead Skip is a fast-paced, carefully plotted detective story. Joe Gores has a sharp eye for the people who walk San Francisco's streets and a finely tuned ear for dialog. He writes with an economical style, providing just enough detail to give personality to his characters and authenticity to his settings. The mystery of Heslip's assailant isn't easy to guess but the resolution is credible. The process of detection, as practiced by Ballard and then by Kearny, is fascinating. Each comes to the same conclusion by independent means, a plot device that makes the story even more interesting.

It's a shame Dead Skip isn't still in print. It deserves the status of a genre classic.


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