July 30, 1984 12:00 PM

by Rex Burns

One of the best exotic dancers at a club on Denver’s X-rated strip is found with a bullet hole in her head. Homicide detective Gabriel Villanueva Wager investigates, and then a second stripper is found dead, shot in the same way. There must be a connection between the killings, but what is it? Although Wager’s boss insists that police work has to be a team effort, the detective begins to call on his underworld informants and even disguises himself (as the Taco Kid) to trigger an elaborate scam that eventually brings down the city’s drug traffickers, exposes a money-laundering scheme and uncovers the murderer. Burns, a teacher at the University of Colorado, has written five other mystery novels. The last, The Avenging Angel, about a vicious cult, also had Gabe Wager as its hero. His Denver is a gritty urban nightmare, finely re-created, decades beyond the Old West of Zane Grey and Max Brand. It’s gone sleazy, with a kind of casual violence that we associate with traditional fictional Westerns. They don’t make cop yarns much better than this. (Viking, $13.95)

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