As I said in my review of The Song Is You, I wish Megan Abbott had done more 40s and 50s LA noir tales. She is of course welcome to write what she darn well pleases without my input. Give Me Your Hand was one of my favorite reads from last year. But these tales are so much fun and they hit that sweet spot of quality LA mysteries.
Like The Song is You, this is a historical mystery featuring an amateur sleuth trying to deduce what’s behind her sister-in-law’s shady past. It’s well-paced with taut prose that takes its time peeling back the layers of the story until the truth is revealed. And man, is this a good ending.
This was Abbott’s first book and it would foreshadow what became her métier: writing mostly about female characters interacting with one another in dangerous and intimate settings. The central tension between Lora and Anne is a compelling hook because it’s not the typical cat-v-mouse writing often associated with mysteries, usually with a male detective protagonist chasing someone. Instead, this book is rooted in the feminine, which is especially compelling to read about as it navigates through hyper-patriarchal 1950s Hollywood. And one of the many things I like about it is how it never loses the focus of that central feminine dynamic. There’s no The boys ruin this or One day, things will be different. Even with her first book, Abbott has the gift of showing versus telling. That’s why it works so effectively from beginning to end.
A good start by someone who turned out to be a great writer. I will always wish she did more of these kinds of novels.