Even the best authors can't hit a home run every time, though Pronzini has come very close. The Nameless Detective series is superficially a pulp mystery series. But they're really wonderful short novels all full of believable characters that develop and grow, good tight plots, and pleasing dollops of philosophizing and introspection. A good series builds a world, and the world of the Nameless Detective is a great world to escape into.
The Nameless Detective series shifted to a three-part plot structure with the introduction of Jake Runyon in Spook. Nameless (not really nameless anymore because everyone calls him "Bill"), Tamara, and Jake each get a separate, unrelated storyline. The Nameless books are so short they barely support a main plot with a secondary plot, so I've been wishing these tri-part stories were longer. For me, Betrayers was not as satisfying as the previous Nameless books because it was three under-developed stories.
Jake Runyon went wrong soon after he was introduced. Making him a lonely, grieving widower who loses himself in work had potential, but of course that can't go on forever. Making his relationship with his estranged son so cartoony and over-the-top was rather grating, and now he has an uninteresting relationship with a physically and emotionally wounded woman, Bryn. She's a one-note wounded bird, and that storyline is headed down the overly-worn path of evil ex-husband ruining her life. She has no inner life or resources of her own; she's just a plot device so Runyon can be a shining knight, the rescuing hero.
Don't even get me started on Tamara's misadventures with Lucas Zeller, con man. Seriously, Tamara? Again? The guy with the blond wig way back in whatever book he appeared in was hilariously funny. Zeller is just tiresome. One of the elements that makes Nameless so interesting is the everyday details of working a case-- traveling, talking to people, the research-- not knowing when some piece of paper, or asking just the right question breaks the case. I'd like to see more details of Tamara's computer work, a more realistic look at what she can dig up in an online, interconnected world, and all the privacy invasions we suffer everyday without even knowing it. That would give Tamara plenty of conscience fodder just like Nameless has when he bullies people and takes questionable shortcuts to get answers.
Betrayers illustrates the thin line between breathing life and excitement into a story, and missing the mark just enough so that it comes out a little flat. It's a high-wire act that makes me appreciate how good Pronzini is.