"It wasn't much, but it was better than a bottle across the face."
But a bottle across the face is what sometimes private eye Ken Sligo gets as "Blondes, Blondes, Blondes!" opens. With demand nonexistent for his sleuthing skills, he's taken a job as a doorman on Baltimore's Block, a seedy row of nightclubs and strip joints.
That's when his old pal Tommy Phelps shows up. Tommy stole Ken's girl Ginger when Ken shipped out for WWII. Now Tommy thinks that Ken has turned the tables, and recruits an emtpy beer to get even.
Ken manages to talk some sense into him before any real harm is done and ends up agreeing to find out where Ginger is. With Tommy unable to find work due to his war wounds she had taken a job as a bar girl at The Alley, still on the Block but on an even dingier side street.
Complicating the situation is the arrival of a rich Cuban and his entourage, their yacht docked in Baltimore's harbor. The new arrivals seem intent on taking in the local sights and have enough pull to get into the Block's segregated nightclubs. They have plenty of money and influence - what are they using it for?
The second Ken Sligo story from Jack Bludis (after 2001's "New Kid on the Block") doesn't have the same narrative drive that marks much of Bludis' work. The plot seems unfocused; it's hard to get a sense of where the story is going. In his story notes, Bludis reveals that this story started life as a novel, and the cast of characters might be better served at a higher word count.
Still, it's a Jack Bludis story, so it's well written, with good period detail and local color. Though this is not my favorite Bludis, if you've liked his other work you'll like this one, too.