E-Book Read: Death on the Island by Bill Crider, 1991 (print), Overdrive.com download.
Crider wrote this so you know it's good. I checked this out through the digital library to take part in the online Crider tribute a couple weeks ago. Well, I changed my mind on how to participate on that day and instead took more time with this novel.
Truman Smith was a private eye in Dallas specializing in missing persons. When his sister went missing he headed back to Galveston Island to look for her. After devoting a year to the search Smith came up empty and flat broke. He's living in the upstairs apartment of a vacant business building in Galveston. Up the stairs climbs a pal from high school asking him to come visit another high school pal, Dino, about a job.
Dino wants Truman's help in finding a missing student. Dino won't give up much information though, he only says the woman is the daughter of a former prostitute and friend of Dino. Dino met her years ago when Dino's uncles ran Galveston's flourishing prostiution, gambling, and booze houses.
Truman doesn't have much to go on but he needs the dough. He speaks to the woman's mother. He speaks to the woman's best pal. He speaks to the boyfriend. Truman starts digging deep enough that he gets jumped by three goons and pounded.
More things happen and we have an honest to goodness, straight-forward PI novel. Truman is a loner with an empty apartment, few friends, and no family. His days are spent reading Faulkner novels, going jogging, and thinking of his sister. He gets in Dutch with the cops after finding a murder victim. He gets violent and doesn't tell the cops. He drives around Galveston and rescues the woman in distress.
Good stuff. The plot is not as solid as the Sheriff Rhodes novels. Truman is a good character for a well worn genre. Crider cranked up the setting and really gives us a great sense of Galveston as a tourist place starting to look run down. As a former high end resort town that has lost it's gleam.
The novel has a good dose of Crider Nostalgia. Truman doesn't exactly wish for the old days to return but the changes around him do sadden him. That nostalgia is often of specific buildings and places. Truman remembers tooling around town with high school pals but I think he - and some other Crider characters - put that focus on buildings.