April 28, 1986 12:00 PM

by Loren D. Estleman

When a book’s title is borrowed from Yeats, the reader has a right to expect a certain quality. Estleman delivers. “The death of friends, or death of every brilliant eye that made a catch in the breath,” holds more than one clue in this tough private-eye novel that follows the old formula faithfully. P.I. Amos Walker rescues a friend who is a newspaper columnist from a police raid at a sinister club in Detroit. Then the columnist disappears—just when a grand jury wants to ask him questions about a killing. A whole series of murders of derelicts and questions about an unsolved gangland-style slaying keep surfacing. A beautiful New York book editor (she was in Estleman’s last Walker novel, Sugar-town) tries to enlist Walker’s help in finding the columnist. But while there is more violence, the things that really count in this kind of fiction are the tossed-off lines, such as the hero pitching some paper “in the drawer with the brass knuckles and my diploma from the Willie Sutton School of Dance.” As in the earlier Walker mysteries, Detroit is a nightmare where “three out of five Detroiters own guns, and one of them is going off somewhere every night.” For readers who like the Philip Marlowe-Travis McGee sort of detective, Amos Walker is your kind of guy. As one character tells him, “You talk and act just a little like a character in a black-and-white film.” Yeah. Starring Humphrey Bogart. (Houghton Mifflin, $15.95)

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