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Gone, No Forwarding by Joe Gores

Published by Random House in 1978

It's a shame that Joe Gores' novels about the Dan Kearney Agency -- known collectively as the "DKA Files" -- are no longer in print. Gores packed more story and characterization into his two hundred page novels than most writers can manage with a five hundred page blockbuster. It's also a shame that Gores died this year, taking with him the funny, grouchy, sly, opinionated, and utterly convincing characters who repossessed cars, solved mysteries, and muddled through life while working for DKA.

Gone, No Forwarding is the third novel in the series. It has all the plot twists a reader of the first two will have come to expect. This one has less to do with repossessing cars than with Kearney's license to practice his craft. Someone has complained that Kearney's staff failed to honor an agreement to hold a payment in trust pending a judicial determination of the lender's entitlement to it. The employee who supposedly breached the agreement died an unexpected but natural death, leaving Kearney scrambling for a witness who can contradict the story told by the person who made the payment. Kearney dispatches his top employees (with whom readers of the first two novels will be familiar) to find people who may have been working in the office when the payment was made. Those folks have since moved on to other jobs (one is a hooker) and other locations, making the task of finding them a challenge.

While there is a modest amount of violence in Gone, No Forwarding, the emphasis is on the process of detection rather than shootouts and thrills. The characters, as usual, are trying to balance their personal problems with the demands that Kearney makes upon them. The nefarious motive that underlies the threat to Kearney's license relates back to an event that occurred in an earlier novel, but it isn't necessary to read the earlier one to understand this one. As the DKA employees track down witnesses and piece together facts, the mystery is resolved in a way that is both surprising and satisfying. But as much fun as the plot and characters provide, the great joy of a DKA novel is Gores' tight prose, his ability to set a scene, to capture a personality, to create atmosphere, in just a few carefully chosen words. Gone, No Forwarding isn't the best novel in the series, but like the others, it is a joy to read.


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