Take away the palm trees. Move Raymond Chandler-like family villainy to Nebraska and set amid snowstorms. Add incest and child abuse to be contemporary. Give the private eye--himself named, of all places, Nebraska--a second career as a would-be novelist. Have him, for tradition's sake, in the process of losing his wife. Use the four-letter language of Omaha and everywhere. Stir in humor. And what you have is a recipe for the modern murder mystery, with homage to all those authors with Ross names or McDonald names. But without the sense of character that marked the masters.
Nebraska smirks too much for my taste. When he has a gun pointed at a thug's groin, he warns the man to move slowly and quietly, "Or you become Sam Spayed."
He is too conscious of the form, interrupting the flow of blood to comment on conventions: "The desperate killer can't be some schlep who's unheard of until the last page. Not even Agatha Christie pulls such large rabbits out of her hats."
But he manages a social insight or two, reflecting on the different masks and manners each of us wears: Office buildings are loaded with guys who must be quick about stabbing their colleagues in the back because they're late for choir practice down at the church."