John Bekker is a former police detective morphed into a hopeless drunk. His near-instant addiction to alcohol happened 10 years earlier when his wife was raped and murdered in their home.

His daughter — traumatized by the terrible event she witnessed at age 5 — lives in a special home where she hasn’t spoken or smiled for a decade.

Readers are thrown these gruesome details in the first pages of “Sunset,” where we learn that the former hotshot detective was an organized crime investigator hot on the trail of mob boss Eddie Crist when his home was invaded.

A massive investigation after Carol Bekker’s murder fails to find the hitman or to link Crist to the murder. Now Bekker lives in a trailer, his only companion an alcoholic named Oz.

“My senses were dull and reflexes gone,” observes Becker, the ex-detective and first-person narrator in this remarkable mystery by Raymond writer Al Lamanda.

“I felt no pain,” Bekker says, explaining his 10-year binge. “That was where I wanted to live. The United States of no pain.”

Then, 15 pages into the novel, Bekker’s painless though miserable life is turned upside down. Knocked out and kidnapped, he wakes up tied to a chair in an empty white room. It’s the beginning of a cold turkey withdrawal that is anything but painless.

Afterwards comes an even bigger surprise: He’s brought face to face with Crist, who’s dying from cancer. Crist claims he was not involved with Carol’s death. Seeking a clear conscience, he hires Bekker to solve the 10-year-old case.

Reluctantly, Bekker agrees and promises to stay off alcohol. Crist gives Bekker a state-issued private investigator’s license, a handgun and an expense account.

“I looked at the expense check and retainer for my services,” Lamonda has Bekker observe. “I was now gainfully employed to investigate the murder of my wife by the very man I believed to have murdered her.”

The novel continues as a wild, action-packed whodunit. While there’s no gratuitous violence such as prolonged torture, “Sunset” is no cozy read. Squeamish readers beware.

As Bekker leaves Crist’s mansion, for instance, the ex-detective makes a typical Bekker observation: “Crist knew that given the slightest opportunity, I would choke him to death and (urinate) on his corpse“

But there’s plenty to like in “Sunset.” You’ll never guess who murdered Bekker’s wife.

The book has interesting subplots too, such as a possible romance between Bekker and his late wife’s sister. And there’s his uncharacteristic decision to adopt a homeless cat — a move that makes the tough detective more appealing

“After a shower,” says Bekker, “I dug out a clean white shirt from the bottom drawer of my dresser, put on the suit with a pair of black shoes, and locked the trailer door.

” ‘We’ll eat when I get back,’ I told the cat.

“She meowed.”

It’s no accident that Lamonda’s tale of cops and gangsters has the ring of truth. Raised in the Bronx, he had a long career as a Manhattan-based crime prevention specialist after studies at New York University and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Corporations hired him to ferret out internal thieves.

“In my 27 years, I must have conducted 3,000 interviews and interrogations on suspects,” Lamonda said when contacted at his home. “It translates into my writing.”

Lamonda, 61, moved to in Raymond with his family in 1997. He’s published four mysteries, including “Dunston Falls.”

With its imaginative plot, quirky characters and nonstop action, Sunset is a fine high-action mystery for those unafraid of a vicarious trip through crime land.

Lloyd Ferriss is a writer and photographer who lives in Richmond.