Cover image for Thin walls
Thin walls
Nelscott, Kris.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Minotaur, 2002.
Physical Description:
387 pages ; 22 cm
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A Dangerous Road, which introduced readers to Smokey Dalton and told the story of the days leading up to Martin Luther King, Jr.s assassination in Memphis, was an Edgar Award finalist for Best Novel. Next came the stunning moke-Filled Rooms, set in Chicago during 1968s Democratic National Convention. Now up-and-coming suspense master Nelscott picks up the compelling events of Smokeys life in the tense setting of Chicago in early 1969, as he is hired to investigate the brutal murders of three black men.

Author Notes

Kris Nelscott lives on the Oregon coast. The first Smokey Dalton novel, A Dangerous Road , won the Herodotus Award for Best Historical Mystery and was shortlisted for the Edgar Award for Best Novel; the second, Smoke-Filled Rooms , was a PNBA Book Award Finalist.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This third entry in the Smokey Dalton series, set around Christmas 1969, finds the African American PI still living in Chicago with 11-year-old Jimmy and still hiding from FBI agents, who know that Jimmy is the only witness to what really happened to Martin Luther King Jr. This time, though, Smokey and Jimmy face new problems: the Blackstone Rangers, Chicago's most powerful street gang, would like to enlist Jimmy and aren't taking no for an answer. Meanwhile, Smokey is working on a case with far-reaching implications: the seemingly random murder of a middle-class black dentist just may be one in a series of killings aimed at keeping black Chicagoans out of all-white neighborhoods. Nelscott doesn't use a specific historical moment (the King assassination or the 1968 Democratic National Convention) to frame the action this time, but she still puts the late-sixties setting to good use, showing how nearly every move Smokey makes, both professionally and personally, is constrained by the racial climate of the times. Another fine entry in an outstanding series. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

Chicago, December, 1968. Not a good place for a black man trying to hide himself and his 10-year-old son from the police and the FBI while starting a new life. Unlicensed PI Smokey Dalton, the man on the run, has assumed the name Bill Grimshaw in this third outing (after 2001's Smoke-Filled Rooms) from Nelscott (the pseudonym of SF author Kristine Kathryn Rusch). He has a plate full of trouble and not a whole lot else in a novel that recaptures the rage and helplessness that fueled the racial explosions of the late 1960s. Dalton/Grimshaw is clinging to vestiges of his former life, particularly his personal and professional relationship with Laura Hathaway, a rich, beautiful white woman who is trying to wrest control of the business her father left her from the directors he appointed. Dalton is serving as her security consultant while she plans her strategy. He is also trying to guide and protect his son, Jimmy, already under recruitment by the omnipresent gangs and struggling with schoolwork. On top of that, he's hired to investigate the murder of Louis Foster, a black dentist whose death has been seemingly ignored by the Chicago police. Nelscott handles this busy plot with aplomb and convincingly portrays the frustrations of various groups of whites and blacks as inexorable changes create friction. Dalton is a strong, compelling hero facing a tough case and an equally tough fight to protect his son and survive. Regional author tour. (Sept. 16) FYI: The first book in the series, A Dangerous Road (2000), was an Edgar nominee. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This installation in Nelscott's "Smokey Dalton" series has so many disjointed subplots that it's easy to forget it's a murder mystery. Nelscott's earlier titles (A Dangerous Road) have been compared favorably with Walter Mosley's novels, but this volume is more like Easy Rawlins lite. Like Mosley, Nelscott, too, is using the private detective genre to examine the black experience in America, which is fine, except that this is principally supposed to be a crime story, and that element is often forgotten while the reader is bombarded with street gangs, Black Panthers, a corporate takeover, oversexed neighbors, a suicide, a racially motivated beating, and even a romance. It's unfortunate, because Nelscott writes well, and each of the subplots would make an interesting story in its own right. Sardined together within a series of murders, however, each one is only glanced upon, so it's both a case of too much and not enough. Nelscott might be someone to watch, but skip this book. Michael Rogers, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.