Man With An Axe
By Jon A. Jackson

Atlantic Monthly Press, 1998, $23

Reviewed by Anthony Smith

Want to know what happened to Jimmy Hoffa? Jackson makes you think he knows in this latest Fang Mulheisen novel. It's not as good as the earlier book, Deadman, but it's still a nice, darkly funny, sort of hard-boiled book that builds on Jackson's growing reputation.

I really like Jackson, but here he tries a different track in the storytelling, which doesn't seem like the right voice to me. Mulheisen narrates his own story, as if he were writing a book. Somehow, it feels wrong, but try to overlook that. It's still very good.

In fact, the opening scene, in third person, is really great work, taking us back to the day Hoffa disappeared, imagining his fate, and it works fine. Later, Jackosn gives us his mentor Grootka's notebook entries (a story within a story, offering a wonderful variety of styles) which relate his involvement in the Hoffa case. This, of course, leads Mulheisen to new clues, new problems. But it's not all stodgy police work. We find out more about the enigmatic Grootka's life, about jazz music, about Detroit. It's a great blend.

Very good work. But still, Jackson's done better. Who cares? If you can find the earliest ones, get them. If not, start with Deadman, then Dead Folks, and then The Man With An Axe. He's worth it.


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