I'm a big fan of Roger Zelzany's work, or at least a lot of it, so I was prepared to love The Dead Man's Brother, a unpublished novel unearthed by Hard Case Crime. According to the "Afterword" by Zelzany's son, the book was written around the time of Today We Choose Faces and the connected novellas that make up My Name is Legion, both of which I enjoyed, so I was hoping for the best. I didn't quite get it.
Ovid Wiley was once a criminal, an art smuggler, but now he's reformed and has his own gallery. Things are going all right until his old partner in crime turns up in the gallery, dead, with a knife sticking in his back. In short order, Wiley's arrested, then recruited by the CIA. He finds himself first in Italy, where there are millions missing from the Vatican's accounts, and then in Brazil, where more millions have gone missing.
It's all very fast and slick, but the whole thing seemed more like a first draft to me than a finished novel. A lot of things that seemed to me to call for further development were forgotten or dropped. The explanations at the end were tedious and not entirely convincing. The supposedly clever narrator does some pretty stupid things. The magic I'd found in some of Zelazny's writing was, for the most part, missing. I'm glad Hard Case published it, and I'm glad I read it, but I was hoping for more. Maybe my expectations were just too high. Or maybe I'm completely wrong. Hey, it could happen. Anyway, I'd give it a C+.
Update: For a more positive take, click here.