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By G.M. Ford

Avon Twilight, HC, $22, (280pp.)

Reviewed by Anthony Neil Smith

Another self-righteous, tough guy with a bleeding heart private eye--like there's not enough of those around--but this one works. Leo Waterman, even though he's an ass, is cool to hang out with. His assistants are a gang of unrepentant, nearly homeless alcoholics. He doesn't get along with the police, and his past is a boiling pot of dysfunction. nd he's got a sense of humor.

LAST DITCH reminds me quite a bit of Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer books in that the central crime occurred decades beforehand. So Leo has to dig into the past, risk friendships and other loyalties, and come face to face with information about his family he hadn't known before and isn't too sure he wants to find out.

As usual, Seattle plays a big role in the book. It's Leo's home turf, and the city forms the geography as well as the tone of the series. Those details of place and atmosphere come through just right.

I thought the book was nice, enjoyable, but not as deep or thought-provoking as Macdonald's books, not as serious as Parker's Spenser novels, not as quirky and wild as Crais' Elvis Cole. On the other hand, so what? Ford isn't trying for any of these things. He's taken a genre, painted it a little differently from everyone else, and put the art for sale in the park instead of in the Louvre. That's not a bad thing. I like this guy, and I recommend LAST DITCH as a good read, but I can't take it very seriously.

Other books reviewed in this series: Bum's Rush and Slow Burn.

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