I don’t usually seek out drug addict fiction. I’m not an addict or a recovering one but like many, I have loved ones who are both and it’s not something I really try to engage with when reading for leisure. I did enjoy Sara Gran’s Dope earlier this year, but besides that, I can’t recall really engaging with a fictional work featuring a drug addict in the lead.
I can’t remember where I originally read a recommendation for Barbara Seranella’s Munch Mancini series. Maybe Christa Faust, who is always recommending random, obscure authors or perhaps it was crimereads.com or some other online listicle. Either way, the premise looked interesting so I decided to try it.
I’m glad I did. This is sort of a cat-and-mouse game featuring a cop and possible criminal revolving around biker gangs and a potential serial killer. There’s a mystery but this is more of a character study between the two. And I think Barbara Seranella does a great job of bringing them both to life. I was invested in their stories, Munch’s more so than the cop’s, but I found myself caring about both of their respective well beings and not as much about the case itself.
And again, since addict fiction is not my forte, it’s not for me to say definitively how Sernallea handled Munch’s struggle to stay off drugs but I think she did well. It felt authentic enough to see her hurdling through withdrawal and fighting off cravings. And this added desperation to her already desperate character, who while not necessarily trying to walk the straight and narrow, is at the very least making a new life for herself and avoiding one of crime, one she was forced into against her will.
This is a bleak, gritty look at the American underbelly in lower class south California. It will not uplift you. But if you like interesting characters trying to figure their loves out with a mystery in the middle, you’ll enjoy this one.