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Unknown Man #89 (Jack Ryan #3)

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  1,428 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
“No one is Leonard’s equal,” declares the Chicago Tribune—and anyone who might doubt it would only have to read Elmore Leonard’s riveting noir classic, Unknown Man #89, to become a true believer.

The twisty tale of a Detroit process server whose search for a missing stockholder leads him into more serious peril than he ever imagined possible, Unknown Man #89 is a gourmet st
ebook, 352 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by William Morrow (first published 1977)
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Oct 07, 2008 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant descriptions of (interestingly enough) morgues and AA meetings - some of Leonard's best writing.

In stock-Leonard hilarious style, he describes two thieves' ransacking of a room (to steal some papers) as follows:

"They used Mr. Perez's black Samsonite two-suiter. Virgil cleared off the desk, taking loose papers, folders, and notebooks, scratchpads, and everything in the desk, including hotel stationary and the room-service menu, and dropped everything in the suitcase open on the floor
Apr 12, 2011 Jake rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Between 3-4 stars. I love Elmore Leonard but he has this frustrating habit of introducing one or two characters and/or one or two plot points too many. Thus, a neat thriller like this one becomes too muddled in the middle and while the end shakes out in an exciting manner, it makes it difficult to appreciate. I liked this book, wanted to really like it but, much like some of his works, it tries to do too much.
Mar 23, 2011 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Might be the best of Leonard's 70s Detroit novels.
Paul Wilner
Dec 10, 2007 Paul Wilner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is his best, though with him, it's hard to tell. He does it without letting you see him sweat.
Feb 28, 2015 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Ian Rankin (whose Black & Blue I recently reviewed and which, okay, was more teacher education Common Core navel-gazing than actual review), I’ve read a lot of Elmore Leonard recently without actually penning a full review. This is the fifth of his books I’ve read since September (and the tenth overall), and while I’ve loved each and every one of them, this is the first one I’ve engaged with on an emotional level. That immediately elevates it to the upper echelon of Leonard’s not-incons ...more
Nov 10, 2013 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s a part in the middle of the book about alcoholics and AA and it’s too real, I’ve got to think, for it to be anything other than personal. It’s a beautiful part. It’s one of the best in the book. I think it’s why Elmore can do what he does like nobody else: so many parts of it are grounded in real life.
See, there was the hard way to do things and there was the easy way. The hard way looked good at the time; in fact, it looked like the only way. But it upset your stomach and could break yo
Jul 10, 2014 Philip rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not as much of an Elmore Leonard worshipper as some. I definitely prefer his Detroit books to his later, cutesier stuff, though. (I haven't read any of his very late novels, when he seemed to be trying out exotic locales and time periods just to stretch himself.) This is a pretty solid novel from the late 70s, not as dark as, say, 52 Pick-Up, and fairly linear/minimalist in its plotting. There are twists, but they make sense, and the tone is consistent throughout, with no wacky digressions o ...more
Victor Gibson
Jul 08, 2013 Victor Gibson rated it liked it
It could that there's no such thing as a bad Elmore Leonard book, but I'm less sure about Unknown Man 89 than I have been about some of his other wonderful writings. Maybe Detroit does not suit his narrative quite as well as the deep south, or California. But of course it's still an easy read, and was ideal for entertaining me on a transatlantic flight. It is 341 pages long. I heard the author on the radio say that all his book made 300 pages, and if one was not quite long enough they took a cou ...more
Charlie Wade
Jan 01, 2016 Charlie Wade rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jack Ryan is a Detroit process server who gets offered a new type of job: tracking someone who is unaware they hold stock worth a lot of money.

Problem is, the unknown man is not that great a person and is wanted by other people who get to him first. Add in a wife, who naturally Jack falls for, and we're set up for a real noir treat. I especially liked the bumbling hoods who broke into the hotel room.
Rick McNeely
Oct 19, 2008 Rick McNeely rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of Elmore Leonard's best. Great "trashy detective fiction," which is one of my favorite genres. A perfect snapshot of Detroit during the Superfly Seventies.
Patrick O'Neil
Sadly, I just lost interest at page 212...
Yong Lee
A fast paced crime story, that is smooth like a straight up vodka martini.
Sep 29, 2012 wally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leonard
#11 or 12 from leonard for one dedicated "for peter"

there's a quote early on:

a prompt man is a lonely man.
---andrew donahue

maybe he's related to phil, i dunno.

story begins:

a friend of ryan's said to him one time, "yeah, but at least you don't take any shit from anybody."

ryan said to his friend, "i don't know, the way things've been going, maybe it's about time i started taking some."

this had been a few years ago. ryan remembered it as finally waking up, deciding to get off h
Jorn Barger
Feb 03, 2017 Jorn Barger rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had to bail on this one: halfway thru it mutates into a morality drama about AA, where a process server with a heart of gold rescues a beautiful drunk who's been married to a psychopath for years. Her character seems absurd to me, so everything else unravels. (Obviously he's only interested in her because she's magically retained her beauty despite years of self-abuse. If she'd been realistically burnt-out he would have let her kill herself without a murmur. So romantic!)
(This is a blog post I did that covers the two Leonard books featuring Jack Ryan.)

One of my favorite aspects about Elmore Leonard’s writing was that by shifting perspectives constantly he had the ability to make you sympathize with a character so that the hero of the story might not be who you thought it was at the beginning of a book. Fans of television’s Justified who pick up Pronto for the first time will probably be confused as to why the first half of the book makes Raylan Givens look like
Oct 08, 2016 Mailmanr5 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good stuff. Picks up a character from his first crime novel & develops him well.
Tom Marcinko
Dec 09, 2012 Tom Marcinko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“In this work,” Ryan told his friend, “you can be a boy scout, a humanitarian, you can be an ass chaser, there’s plenty of that. I mean, broads, ones that’re lonely or grateful. You can lean on people, stick it to them if you get a kick out of that. Christ, like a guy I know, he’s in the collection business now, Jay Walt. He likes to torture people, get them to squirm or whimper. You can do that. Or you can wish them luck and not horse them around any. We’re all making the same trip, right? Tryi ...more
Sep 10, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
UNKNOWN MAN NO. 89. (1977). Elmore Leonard. ****.
This is basically a love story wrapped around by a criminal caper. Our protagonist is Jack C. Ryan. Ryan is in the business of serving warrants and summons. He makes a pretty good living – remembering that this is set in 1976 or so – by working for a variety of lawyers and the Detroit criminal courts. He is approached by a man, Mr. Perez, who wants Ryan to find a man for him. He claims that he has something of this man’s that the man doesn’t know
Dec 18, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: toughnecks w/ a touch of the marshmallow
Recommended to John by: another writer & Leonard buff
Got to give it up for the E man, Ehhl-moh Leonard, in particular for these nifty titles. Wouldn't you know it, one of his most provocative -- unknown? & as many as 89? -- draws a reader into one of his very best, my favorite of those I've been through, an early effort (first pub. 1977) more vital & layered. UNKNOWN is a "crime novel" I suppose, though a more specific designation would be the lowlife novel, one in which our moral core is Jack Ryan (an unfortunate name, but Leonard got the ...more
Feb 06, 2015 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Doug Noakes
May 24, 2015 Doug Noakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 1970's novel from Elmore Leonard put his protagonist on familiar ground in the Detroit underworld. Jake Ryan is a easy-going process server who tries to track down a unstable criminal named Ray Leery for a court date, only to find him already in the morgue. There is also a certain Mr. Perez, a shady lawyer from New Orleans, who wants to find the ex-Mrs. Leery to get his finders fee on some valuable stocks Leery's father had set aside for his son, and forgotten decades earlier. Ryan's task is t ...more
Michael Naughton
Thanks to Hollywood, we all know Mr. Majestyk, 52 Pickup, Get Shorty, Be Cool, KillShot, etc., but Unknown Man # 89, published in 1977 after Swag, is an unknown gem that'll keep you flipping pages at night. Leonard weaves an original story of Jack Ryan, a Detroit process server, who is hired to find Bobby Lear by a con man named Mr. Perez. The con deals with unclaimed stocks and Ryan will hit pay dirt if he can just locate him for Mr. Perez. Easy enough right..? It's what Ryan does for a living. ...more
Sep 19, 2008 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When you join the military you only get to bring a few things with you to basic training (toothbrush, razor..etc). I brought this book. I had started reading it during the summer after high school and simply couldn't let going into the Navy stop me from reading it.

This really was one of the first books I chose to read on my own as a young adult. I had read a few other worthwhile things like 'Invisible Man' in high school, but those were still really for school projects, if you know what I mean.
Jan 30, 2015 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not having read Leonard novels before, I was browsing the paperbacks and the library and saw such a collection I thought I would pick one up, and I'm glad I did. I was familiar with Leonard's work in the movies - Be Cool, Get Shorty, and Out of Sight - so I wasn't sure how good his writing was. I did enjoy this book, though the first thing that threw me off was when the book was written. It felt at times like it was from 2014, others from the early 1980's, which I think was the publication date. ...more
a weird leonard novel that, like a lot of his stuff, blurs the line between who exactly the bad guy is by presenting everything in a gray area. i mean, we are locked in on jack ryan and rooting for him, but the world that surrounds him is immoral and life doesnt seem to mean much. this book is a peculiarity in that halfway through it takes a hard turn away from being a crime novel and starts to become an AA novel, with its morality tied up in the characters and their struggles with addiction, al ...more
Don Massenzio
Oct 31, 2014 Don Massenzio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This crime novel shows further development in Leonard's writing style. This book revives one of his earlier characters from The Big Bounce, Jack Ryan, as a Detroit-based process server that searches for a man that has property coming to him that he is unaware of. The story has many twists and turns and ends up with a clever Ryan coming out ahead in the end. I was struck by a new technique that had not appeared in any earlier Leonard novels. He had two simultaneous threads going in the story and ...more
Jun 24, 2011 Jae rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fun and interesting Elmore Leonard book. This one deals with process server who gets hired by a slightly shady businessman to find someone because this someone might be owed a lot of money for some old stock he might not know he owns. Of course, the slightly shady businessman isn't doing this out of the goodness of his heart--he expects half the proceeds. The process server gets in over his head when the man he's searching for--a known murderer--mysteriously dies, and the guy's skid-row ...more
Dennis Billuni
Oct 11, 2015 Dennis Billuni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As usual, Elmore Leonard treats the reader to a fast-moving crime-in-Detroit novel. The main character, Jack Ryan (no relation to Tom Clancy’s character), a process server with no real direction for his life, finds himself falling for an alcoholic widow/heiress beset by vicious con men. His relationship with Lee turns him into something of a knight errant on a mission to save the damsel in distress (and her money) by the bad guys who would also like to see Jack dead. Crackling Elmore Leonard dia ...more
Feb 07, 2016 Luca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So you think this one is gonna have a mystery in it, but then the mystery is resolved at around page 30 or so, and the rest of the book is just bad dudes trying to screw each other over as usual.

I noticed Leonard used a lot of indirect speech in this one, which is a really fun way to keep the pacing up and switch up the page layout from being filled with dialogue all the time.

Anyway, THE BIG BOUNCE's Jack Ryan is back as a protagonist in this one, but he's changed so much as to not really matte
This book was a little bit of a letdown. Generally, Leonard creates a trashy world in his novels - usually either that of Southern Florida or Hollywood or the Wild West. This particular story takes place in Detroit and the setting couldn't be more mundane. And it's not Detroit's fault. "The Snowman's Children" by Glen Hirshberg takes place in Detroit and the setting of that book is one of the most memorable in my recent reading.

The character's motivations were muddled, and Leonard's usually snap
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Elmore John Leonard lived in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before settling in Detroit in 1935. After serving in the navy, he studied English literature at the University of Detroit where he entered a short story competition. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into m ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Jack Ryan (2 books)
  • The Big Bounce (Jack Ryan, #1)

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