I read an interview with famed Los Angeles-based crime writer Michael Connelly where he was asked to give two recommendations for under-appreciated LA novels.
North of Montana is one he mentioned and I was intrigued by it. I had no familiarity with the work of April Smith and the premise sounded interesting enough, especially how Connelly pitched it: a procedural novel with a female detective who has to deal with her male colleagues bullcrap. So I picked it up.
I see what Connelly likes about it. Sometimes, a reader’s view syncs with a writer’s style in such a way as to help you forgive their flaws. That was the case here with me. April Smith takes a generic paperback mystery and makes it feel fresh, not because of the plot, but because of Ana Grey, the lead character. She’s tough but also allowed to be vulnerable. She gives it back to the guys but also realizes she has to play the game. She’s screwed over because of her gender but doesn’t let that deter her from her goals. She felt well-rounded and thus I was invested in her story.
And that’s good because the story itself is just okay. There are really two threads here: the A plot involving a Hollywood star and her drug intake and a B plot involving Grey’s Latinx family whom she doesn’t know (and with a heritage that seems to bring out some internalized racism). The A plot is interesting, if predictable. The B plot is hit-or-miss, mostly miss. Still, despite her flaws, I liked Ana’s character and how she navigated both. I’ll have to check out more of this series. Good recommendation, Mr. Connelly.