The Pequod Review:

Sugartown is the fifth book in Loren Estleman's acclaimed Detroit-based Amos Walker series. Walker is a tough and street-smart former cop who is now working as a private investigator, and his work usually takes him across Detroit's diverse working-class neighborhoods. In this book, Walker investigates two cases — a missing boy in the Polish neighborhood of Hamtramck, and a dissident Russian novelist who is receiving death threats — both of which turn out to be linked. Estleman's dialogue and plotting are good but the book's real pleasure is Estleman's observational prose. It has a classic pulp style but Estleman elevates it to Chandler levels:

I bent down and took her chin and turned her head and fixed that. The needle came to the end of the record meanwhile and the arm swept back and the machine turned itself off with a discreet click, like a bellhop letting himself out of the honeymoon suite.


She was a very old woman dressed entirely in black, and when she fumbled open my inner office door the aluminum tubing of the walker she was leaning on gleamed like a nickel steel against the black of her dress. I got up from behind the desk to hold the door open against the pressure of the pneumatic closer. She nodded her thanks with that jerky impatience that the very old share with the very young -- the poise complacency of age is a myth -- but she made no comment, concentrating on the involved business of setting the rubber feet down on the rug and toddling forward and then picking up the feet and setting them down again...

Her hair was very thick, very white, brushed back from her forehead and pinned at the nape of her neck. Fifty years ago it would have tumbled in rich dark waves to her shoulders and had the young Polish blades doing cartwheels to get their fingers in it. At first glance her face had a patrician look; at second glance it was just old. The hands in her lap were blunt and red with skin flaking off the backs. The skin was well scrubbed but there was black dirt older than I was in the creases of her knuckles. There was a thick plain gold band on the third finger of her left hand and a startling red ruby in an antique setting on the corresponding finger of her right. It went with that hand like a silk dress in a steel washtub. There was much to learn about Martha Evancek.

When it comes to Detroit crime novelists, Elmore Leonard gets all of the praise but Loren Estleman is a far better stylist.