March 02, 1981 12:00 PM

by Jay Robert Nash

In an early, clever move, Nash gives his columnist-detective hero an assistant who once managed a movie theater where vintage crime films were shown. With this nice bit of trickery, Nash, a Chicago journalist whose beat includes homicides, has an opportunity to have both his characters and the pace of this novel hark back to that golden, tough-guy era of detective fiction. So for readers who grew up on Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, A Crime Story is a treat, Its hero, asked by the governor-elect to investigate the murder of his son, encounters a series of horrible crimes that turn out to be duplicates of murders written about in his column. The plot is wildly contrived, but it works just fine. The best “character” in the book is Chicago; Nash makes the city live. (Delacorte, $10.95)

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