(TW: mention of rape)
There’s a lot going on in this book. Not sure the author pulls it all off but I know that I liked it and I wanted to keep reading to the very end.
I had been meaning to read this one for a while. Not only does it wind up on a lot of lists featuring great LA mysteries but the writer herself has cited Ross Macdonald as a major inspiration. This has the setup of an Archer-esque story: someone going undercover to unearth the dirty deeds of a rich, influential family full of greed and unconsummated desire.
But Denise Hamilton has a voice all her own and it shows. The prose and dialogue might be standard fare, sometimes to the point of cliche, but the plotting was superb. There were so many times where I thought I knew where the story was going only for Denise Hamilton to pull the rug out from under me. Some of the resolutions were predictable but much credit to Hamilton for keeping me guessing, which is rare with mysteries.
This also is a legitimately great Los Angeles novel. It gets the desperation of the city, the striver’s desire to advance their position in a city that chews up ambition and spits it out. I don’t know that it’s the best book I’ve ever read set in LA but it might be the best use of LA in a book, if that makes sense.
Again, not everything works. The characters are sometimes stock, the use of rape keeps coming up more as a plot point than with any investment as to how it impacts the characters. But I liked this a lot. I wish Hamilton had a better publisher because I feel like this should’ve catapulted her to bestseller stardom. As it stands, I’ll have to check out more of her work.