Archive for the ‘California’ Category
The Hearse by Henry Clement:
Tom Sullivan was standing against the open screen door. His brown suit was curiously old-fashioned. It was years since Jane had seen a man’s suit cut that way. He held a bunch of yellow wildflowers in his hand. For a moment Jane wondered where she had last seen flowers like that. Then she remembered: it had been beside her grandparent’s tombstone in the cemetary.
She stepped out onto the porch and closed the door behind her.
Tom held out the flowers. “I picked these at my place,” he told her.
Synopsis: Jane inherits house from dead aunt, is menaced by everything. Unfortunately, she is not smart enough to notice until a demon is in her living room.
Jane? Jane Hardy? Peanut, it’s your brain calling. Look, I know we haven’t been in touch a lot these past few years, but I’m really starting to worry about you.
Why? Well Jane, there’s no easy way to put this, but: ever since you inherited your dead aunt’s house, you know, the aunt who was into witchcraft? Aunt Becky? Ever since you inherited her house, you’ve been acting a little strange.
..What? No, I’m sure. Believe me, I’m sure. Look, here’s a partial list of–
C’mon Jane, focus. Yes, that is a pretty dress. Yes, I’m sure you look just as good as your aunt did in it, but–
No, Peanut, come on, focus, follow my finger, follow my finger, we’re talking about your aunt’s house, and all the weird things that have been happening there, so I really need you to focus. Okay? Now, ever since you moved in, I mean, from the very evening you moved in, there have been some things going on in that house that should’ve rung some alarm bells, but here you are trying on your dead aunt’s dresses and pretending like everything’s normal.
What do I mean? Well:
- The night you moved in, you heard strange music coming from your aunt’s bedroom. When you went in, the music suddenly stopped and you didn’t give it a second thought, what with finding shiny earrings on the dresser.
- Then the next morning you noticed a music box you’d put on the nightstand was on the dresser. Didn’t that strike you as a teensy bit odd, Jane?
- The next time you found the music box open and playing, you also found that your bed had been moved to stand at a 45-degree angle to the wall. That really should’ve struck you as strange, Peanut.
(“She stared at it, then shook her head in bewilderment and shoved it back into place. The only possible cause for the moving of the bed was the electricity in the air, she reasoned. Hadn’t she read that in a book someplace?”)
No, Jane, I’m fairly sure you didn’t read that in a book someplace, for oh, about a thousand reasons starting with the fact that as your brain, I can tell you that you last read a book in 10th grade and My Friend Flicka doesn’t cover supernatural furniture juggling.
- Jane, I know we haven’t had That Talk yet, despite the fact that you were married, but inviting a teenage boy into your home to do chores, then getting into soap suds fights with him, letting see you undressing for a shower, and finding his temper tantrums cute is a seriously bad idea. I know, it is flattering that he has a crush on you, but the kind of teenage boy who responds to being turned down for a date by breaking a vase in your kitchen is possibly not one you should have in your home in the first place.
Also, when the teenage boy erects an elaborate rope swing prank to get your attention, and the prank goes mysteriously awry, snapping the rope and cannoning him face-first into the ground, you should see if he’s all right. It’s just good manners, Peanut.
- Speaking of That Talk, this Tom fellow you’ve been seeing–
(“‘Out here in the country, Tom, I seem to be really learning for the first time what it’s like to take care of myself. And I must say that it feels good. In fact, it feels great.’ She smiled at him through the light of the candles. ‘So long as I don’t get killed in the process!’ She broke out into low laughter.
Tom stared into her face for a long moment. ‘You are very beautiful when you laugh, Jane,’ he told her gravely.”)
Yeah, that Tom. Um, isn’t there anything about Tom that strikes you as a little bit weird? Like the fact that no one else can see or hear him? Or that you thought he was going to push you out of that rowboat? Or the fact that HE HAS A PET GHOST HEARSE THAT DOES HIS EVIL BIDDING AND IS JEALOUS OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP?
Jane, I’m starting to really worry about you. Please call.
Love, Your Brain
# 41: The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow:
“Sorry, I forgot,” Hang Twelve says, “Like the moana was epic tasty this sesh and I slid over an ax of this gnarler and just foffed, totally shredded it, and I’m still amped from the ocean hit, so my bad, brah.”
Cheerful looks at Petra and says, “Sometimes we have entire fascinating conversations in which I don’t understand a word that is said.” He turns back to Hang Twelve. “You’re what I have instead of a cat. Don’t make me get a cat.”
Synopsis: Boone Daniels, half wronged good guy PI, half Lebowski, takes on a missing stripper case for an insurance company. All his friends on The Dawn Patrol, a group of dedicated early-morning So Cal surfers, take the hit.
Boone Daniels used to be a cop, now he surfs. His friends — Sunny Day, Hang Twelve, High Tide and Johnny Banzai (still a cop) — all surf too, and when an epic macking crunchy set of waves approaches, they’re all puzzled when Boone takes on the case of a missing stripper. But what does that have to do with the girls who look like ghosts, the Japanese internment of World War II and the Samoan concept of the marai?
You really should read this book to find out.
I hate being coy about plot twists, I really do, but in Winslow’s case it’s worth it. It’s like the last book of his I read, California Fire and Life, there are so many twists, and they’re all so damn good that in this case it’s worth being coy.
That’s right, babies: the SpoilerPants are staying in the closet.
Things I will say:
–Loved it. (Obviously, right?) Winslow writes really great, strong, believable women in his books, women with agency, who exist outside of a need to nail the hero/PI. Sunny Day, the only woman on The Dawn Patrol, can outsurf all of them, Boone included, and a not-inconsiderable part of the narrative is devoted to Sunny’s focus on making it as a pro surfer; it consumes her to a degree, we’re shown, that her relationship with Boone does not. Petra, the hard-bitten lawyer from the insurance company, repeatedly pulls her weight, plotwise, as well as jumping in and using her brains and her skill as a lawyer to save the day. And let me talk for a minute about turning the cookie-cutter stripper character on its head. Do NOT mess with these ladies.
There’s really not enough words I know to express my need for more characters like these. I am again reduced to eight minutes of squeaking noises.
–It only struck me while I was copying down quotes from the book into the ubiquitous quotes notebook (four pages worth, thanks for asking) that the whole novel is written in the present tense. Normally that annoys the socks off me, but in this case I could not put it down. That is hard to do. I like when hard to do is pulled off well and makes me want to run out and ravage my local bookstore like a well-read Viking.
It’s hard to say what exactly makes this such a great book. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I finished the book last week because a) I want more books to be like this and b) when it comes down to it, I want everything I write to be this compulsive, this deeply layered but with the appearance of ease. All the characters are well-defined, rounded and interesting. A lot of the book focuses on women and people of color, which, roll your eyes all you want, but that’s the world I live in, so I want books that reflect this reality.
Also, Winslow gives great coastal California. He writes a lot about the history of development in Pacific Beach, CA in a way that’s totally unlike the dry history books presented in schools all over this fine nation of ours. There’s a certain unique talent in blending your own writing voice with history in, oh, for example, describing how the Beach Boys are responsible for most of what’s wrong with the coast of Southern California today and pulling it off with a visceral edge:
Boone doesn’t know the answer to that old Ethics 101 question from his freshman year in college — if, knowing what you know now, you had a chance to strangle Adolf Hitler in the cradle — but he’s clear about the answer for Brian Wilson. You’d splatter his baby brains all over the bassinet before you’d let him make it to the recording studio to turn that 101 into a parking lot.
There are tons of small, fascinating digressions that take the form of stories told in flashback. Like when the group took Hang Twelve to a strip club for his birthday and he ate the shrimp at the buffet. Or how Boone came to live in Cheerful’s pier-side bungalow. It’s all magic, and I appreciate the time taken to stop the admittedly gunfire-happy action to tell these stories. They make the book deeper and more nuanced.
The plot is complicated, but simple when it gets all laid out end-to-end.
The ending is not simple at all. It’s also not strictly legal, but it is right. And that’s what counts.
So to recap: good stuff. Dark, textured, complicated and well thought-out.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to celebrate July Fourth by ravaging a bookstore for Winslow’s backlist.
Murder on the Run by Gloria White:
I drove to Bernal Heights, straight to Blackie’s house. It was a run-down, ticky-tacky place, just one notch above a shack, with a sweeping view of Interstate 280 and the farmers’ produce market. None of Blackie’s four ex-wives had been able to pry him out of it, but none of them had tried too hard either. Blackie managed to keep it by promising them all his income. Then he basically quit working.
Synopsis: Ronnie Ventana’s set out her PI shingle in San Francisco and hit a run of good luck, which is promptly halted by seeing a high-profile SF personality throw some dude in the Bay. Mistaken identities, beer, missing corpses and shenanigans follow.
I probably should’ve.
Veronica “Ronnie” Ventana, daughter of the notorious cat-burgling Ventanas, is just starting out as a PI in San Francisco when, on an early morning run near Presidio Park, she sees an uber-successful fellow PI chuck a guy into the Bay. Despite Ronnie’s best attempts at getting the cops to believe her, the case goes cold when the body is nowhere to be found. So Ronnie, still flush from a satisfied and generous client, sets out to nail the bad guy.
Of course, everything goes wrong and nothing is what it seems.
Murder on the Run was a 1991 Anthony Award finalist and with good reason. It’s well-written and scenic, with lots of San Francisco and intriguing, well-delineated characters. Ronnie’s a hard-drinking, immature, wanna-be know-it-all whose stubborn naivete contrasts well with the laconic, world-weary attitude of her mentor, a run-down boxer named Blackie Cooper, and her tight-ass yuppie ex-husband, Mitch.
The plot hangs together nicely and White’s writing style lets you feel like you really are zooming around the city with Ronnie and getting wasted at after-hours East Bay jazz joints.
There are currently five books in the Ronnie Ventana series; Murder on the Run is the first, and I liked it so well I found a used copy of the second, Money to Burn right away.
That….may’ve been a mistake.
Rule number fifty-two of private investigating is never turn down whatever your host offers you. It’s sort of like those tribes in Africa that get insulted if you don’t drink their goat blood. If you accept something out of somebody’s kitchen, you’re one of them. So, even if she’d offered me catnip coffee, I’d drink a sip or two, just to keep her talking.
“Tell me about this morning,” I prompted when she came back with a tray piled high with cookies and, almost as an afterthought, a coffee mug crammed in at each end.
“Here.” She set the tray down, handed me a cup, picked up the second one, and grabbed a cookie. As she bit into the cookie, she rolled her eyes like she’d tasted heaven. “I love shortbread, don’t you?”
“Yeah.” I forced myself to take one, blew a cat hair off of it and took a bite. “About David?”
In Ronnie’s second outing, she’s awakened at 3am by a friend of her ex-husband’s, who busts into her apartment and demands she help him hide from a passel of Uzi-toting goons. The goons are real enough and in fact douse Ronnie’s apartment in gasoline as a warning, but everything David “Bink” Hanover says is a lie. He’s a con-man from Mitch’s college days whose gotten in over his head with a woman he describes as a black widow: all her boyfriends wind up dead.
Now, apart from the amusingly creative ways the boyfriends die (lion enclosure at the zoo, locked in a fridge with a canister of nitrous oxide) so much of what made Murder on the Run great is missing here: less Blackie Cooper, less San Francisco, less tightly woven plot.
But my biggest complaint is that the antagonist, Bink, is a dillweed.
A juvenile, narcissistic prankster who’s always depended on his looks and connections to get him out of trouble, he jerks everyone around and then gets mad when they call him on his actions. And no one does, including Ronnie, which really lessened my ability to get into the book.
If a friend of your ex-husband’s busts into your apt at 3:30 am trailed by armed thugs and then complains that you’re not doing enough to help him escape, consistently whines about getting caught in shady schemes and keeps disappearing while you’re trying to help him then, sister, it’s time for a spine-reinstallation kit.
That and the resolution to the mystery made very little sense.
So what do we have overall?
The writing’s still light and well-crafted and there are still echoes of the first, most awesome Ronnie Ventana on display here. But Blackie Cooper’s relegated to a walk-on part and Ronnie mysteriously loses a large chunk of her spine when Mitch returns from Tahiti (yes, Tahiti) and gets engaged to a new girl in the space of a week.
It’s definitely understandable if you still have feelings for an ex to be upset by them running off with someone, but Ronnie’s reaction, to sit on her couch in the dark and sob, feels unworthy of her as a character. I mean, she’s more upset by that than by anything Bink does.
Bink. I ask you.
There are four more mysteries in the series: Charged with Guilt, Sunset and Santiago, Cry Baby and Death Notes, and I have to say, if I can find the next one in the series at the library or maybe for $2-3 I’m gonna go for it.
Spine or no spine, Ronnie at least likes to keep things interesting. I’m still rooting for Blackie, though.
Also, #41, a reread: Games to Keep the Dark Away by Marcia Muller:
“A private detective.” She shook her head slowly. “The kinds of jobs you girls will get into today…”
Which, I feel, requires no further comment.
#39: Trophies and Dead Things by Marcia Muller:
I made two detours on my way to All Souls: first to pick up a pizza, so I wouldn’t have to sponge off the folks who lived there (and probably have to eat some god-awful health food), and then to my house to pick up my gun.
Synopsis: In case you haven’t had the pleasure, let me clarify: Sharon McCone is the shit.
The 14th mystery in Muller’s Sharon McCone series, this is one of those happy accidents where I was wandering round my living room, wondering what to read, holding Muller’s Point Deception in one hand, when I discovered that I had both Trophies and #15, Where Echoes Live shelved sideways next to the front door, just under the crap westerns section.
(What can I say, I spend a lot of time wandering around my living room. At least it keeps me off the streets.)
I think I read this book the first time when I was 10. I know I found the very first book, Edwin of the Iron Shoes and rrrrrrrrripped right through the series like it was on fire, courtesy our quite excellently stocked public library, and I remember thinking then as I did now, holy crap, girl!PI.
I know, I know, my young onions, but back in the heady days of the 1980s, we didn’t have girl PI’s. We had shit like Mike Hammer and Glitterburn in great heaping spoonfuls and finally when Sharon McCone and Kinsey Milhone showed up, it was like a breath of fresh air. It was this whole idea that women could get PI licenses and get divorced and get shot at and do something in hardboiled mysteries besides get widowed and get pronged and it was just. So. Awesome. Still is.
In Trophies and Dead Things, San Francisco P.I. Sharon shows up bright and early one morning to help her boss clean out the house of a recently and suddenly deceased friend. As they sort through the guy’s belongings, they discover that the notorious 60s Movement radical made a new will, leaving his considerable estate to four strangers and that in addition to baseball cards and oversized sweaters, the house is full of Secrets. Yessss, with a capital Esssss.
Ostensibly, McCone’s job is to track down the four strangers and make them aware of their inheritances and see if they actually know the deceased guy in question. It’s like a grown-up version of The Westing Game: one of these people is an ostler, another’s a news anchor. One’s a crooked lawyer and another’s a drunk. Then the shooting starts.
I’m biased, because I love these books, but I can readily see that newcomers to the series will either love or hate Sharon McCone, right off the bat. She’s prickly and emotionally closed-off and judgmental.
Frankly, these are all things I love about her, but you know, ymmv.
Muller’s an honest enough writer that she shows the effects these characteristics have on the people around McCone, whether its the coworkers who watch her chase after a sniper in a bloodthirsty rage, or the fickle, unhinged ex-boyfriend who drops in at 6 a.m., or the Homicide detective who gets promoted out of McCone’s life, leaving her with a sense of things moving on, leaving her behind. It’s messy and it’s complicated and it’s all there in these pages.
The other thing that’s there is San Francisco, in great fog-wreathed chunks. Just like Harry Bosch is inextricably entwined with L.A., McCone is part of the city by the bay, and it’s hard to imagine her leaving, or more to the point, it’s hard to imagine the city letting her leave.
I actually went looking for Muller books because of how well San Francisco’s written in them. Offhand, I’m trying to think of someone else who writes that city as well as she does (a modern version, I mean. Stand down, all you Sam Spade defenders). Stephen Greenleaf’s John Marshall Tanner springs to mind, as does Lia Matera’s Willa Jansson and Joanne Pence’s Angie Amalfi mysteries, despite how much I want to clunk Amalfi in the head with a shovel. Can anyone suggest any others?
(Having said that, of course, I just found Golden Gate Mysteries. Oh internet, I heart you sometimes).
This time around, Trophies is starting to show its age, but in amusing, innocent ways. Like, can you imagine the SFPD blithely letting P.I.’s sit in on their investigations nowadays? On interrogations of subjects? McCone also uses more pay phones than Superman and idly contemplates how useful it would be to have that miracle of modern life, a car phone. Ooh! Now, these things come up in other, older detective novels it’s true, but it’s a testament to the strength of the series that other than those things, the book still reads as timely and relevant to today.
I quit reading this series back in the day, after #15, Where Echoes Live. Why? Who knows. I was about 13 or so, so either I got distracted by things like Valley of the Amazons or I entered that time-honored teen-gore-pulp stage, mainlining Bentley Little and Peter Straub. More likely than anything I just got distracted by the state of my hair. We’ve all been there.
Book #16 involves dolphin cartilege, so I’m not entirely sure when I’ll be throwing myself on that particular grenade, but for now it’s simply enough to be reminded Sharon’s still in the world. In 2010, Muller published Coming Back, #28 in the series.
#37: Sugar Skull by Denise Hamilton:
I scrolled through the wires again to see what else was going on in the city. All over town, people were dying violently — shot in dead-end bars, withdrawing money from ATMs, working the night shift in liquor stores, and playing hopscotch on the corner. Usually, we waited until Sunday, when the final tally came in, then did a roundup. Unless the victims were rich, prominent, or had met their end in some horribly unusual and tragic way they got folded into the main story as smoothly as egg whites into cake. So far the wires were at fourteen and counting.
Synopsis: LA Times reporter Eve Diamond — who, let us be honest here, has the best female Dirk! Pitt! name — gets waylaid by a creepy dude who’s convinced his teenage daughter has been killed by squatters. He’s right, of course, but ask yourself this: what does this have to do with the LA mayoral race, a family of Mexican-American entertainment moguls and Eve’s propensity for hucking ice cubes at mockingbirds.
Eve! Diamond! (that is just not getting old, people) is a low-level reporter at the L.A. Times who works hard, loves L.A. and keeps getting shafted by reporters and editors who like to make sure she knows she has no connections in Society to get her a leg up the corporate ladder.
Enter Vince Chevalier, who drags Eve out of work one day with the promise of murdered body: his daughter’s. Intrigued, Eve follows, Vince delivers on his promise, the trail leads to a weenie mayoral candidate with a hot wife and a fundraising party, then the hot wife turns up dead as well. And then there’s the hot Mexican-American scion of rodeo promoters who promises Eve a behind-the-scenes tour and takes that phrase to a whole new level, nudgenudge winkwink.
And Eve’s homeless houseguest gives everyone crabs. It’s awesome.
So, one of my favorite things about this book was the L.A. Times itself; specifically that every time Eve paused for breath, one editor or another would pin her down and give her a new assignment that was due at 3pm that day. This felt very much like every workplace I’ve ever been in. And while Eve gets mildly flustered, she keeps being all WHAT? THE WHAT NOW? A STORY ON ACCORDIONS? ACCORDIONS. BY WHEN? FINE. NO, THAT’S FINE, THIS MURDERED BODY WILL KEEP, WE’RE GOOD. And she makes good on her promise. Because that’s real life. That’s what you have to do when you’re employed, Hannah Swensen. It’s just how things have to work, murdered body or not.
Some bad things: Eve’s kind of well, um…
There’s no easy way to put this: Eve’s kind of a dipshit.
She’s impulsive and hard-working, she’s dedicated and genuinely wants to be a better person than the awkward liberal that she is, but time and again she’s also not the ripest banana in the bunch. Unprotected sex with a hot lead in one of your stories? GAME TIME. Let a teenager sit drinking your tequila in your car? WHY NOT. Take the schizophrenic street addict home with you and tell her you’ll adopt her? SOUNDED LIKE A GREAT IDEA AT THE TIME.
Seriously, I don’t know how Eve’s not killed crossing the road, when she punches someone’s ignition thinking it’s the crosswalk button. She is just not bright.
But she is compulsively readable.
A huge part of the appeal of this book is how much L.A. plays a role in the story. Hamilton writes of the L.A. Cris Beam wrote of, the L.A. of homeless kids and transgender prostitutes, institutions that are worse than anything the street can offer. In Sugar Skull just as in Beam’s Transparent, L.A. is truly the city of lost angels.
It’s also an uneasily multicultural city, where different ethnic groups live cheek-by-jowl, building-by-building, and racism isn’t easily dismissed in the name of tourism. I’m not surprised Hamilton’s edited both LA Noir and LA Noir 2, and if I wasn’t going to check out those collections before, I sure as hell am now. Holy crap, y’all.
Eve’s a true Angeleno, happy to frequent ethnic groceries for the good deals and Ukrainian bakeries for the good eats, while at the same time getting nervous at a raucous Latino Dia de Los Muertos celebration. Although being Eve, she refuses to let her discomfort get in the way of finding the blonde transgender mermaid who’s the key to at least seven of her competing stories.
I had a couple issues with the structural execution of the ending, along the lines of, if you show us your heroine hanging from a cliff by her fingernails, the next chapter shouldn’t then begin, “So I made it off the cliff okay.” That’s a little anticlimactic and doesn’t play fair with the reader, IMO. But the story as a whole hangs true, and bad things happen to good characters, bad characters and ambiguous characters. Eve walks into a set-up and proceeds to make a bad thing worse.
At the same time, though, it’s an interesting way to drive a narrative: leave it in the hands of someone who is constantly distracted by shiny colors. Sooner or later, the story’s bound to wind up someplace unexpected, even if it’s by accident.
#36: The Black Ice by Michael Connelly:
Bosch dragged deeply on a cigarette and then dropped the butt into the gutter. He hesitated before pulling the billy club that was the door handle of the Code 7. He stared across First Street to the grass square that flanked City Hall and was called Freedom Park. Beneath the sodium lights he saw the bodies of homeless men and women sprawled asleep in the grass around the war memorial. They looked like casualties on a battlefield, the unburied dead.
Synopsis: The second in Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, the well-worn misfit L.A. cop tracks a cop killer, a drug dealer and a suicide to Mexico. Strangely, this is not the set-up for a joke.
Christmas night, Harry Bosch is mercurially alone in his house-on-stilts in the L.A. basin, watching the hillside across from him burn down and listening to saxophone solos. Interrupting his amusements is a high-level callout on a suicide in a seedy Hollywood motel coming over the police band. The callout doesn’t include Bosch, which is strange because he’s the detective on call for the evening. So he crashes the party and finds the headless body of missing rogue Narcotics cop Calexico Moore.
From there and in no particular order, Bosch:
–goes to Mexico
–fucks Moore’s widow
–takes over the caseload of a coworker who’s too drunk to keep copping
–pisses off the IAD lieutenant from the first book
–uh, that’s about it
I’ll get this out of the way: it’s not a stellar sophomore effort. I’m convinced that basically the entire problem with this book is that a third of it takes place in Mexico. Connelly gives great L.A.
Not just that, but L.A. is so much a part of Bosch and he a part of it that no amount of stellar place-writing can take the place of that. “Bosch did not begin to feel whole again until he reached the smogged outskirts of L.A. He was back in the nastiness again but he knew that it was here that he would heal.”
So taking that guy and plonking him in the middle of Mexico for 125 pages just means that the reader really knows something is missing.
That said, this mediocre Connelly book is still better than like 80% of the crap I’ve read where a white dude goes around saving the day for brown people, the poor, women, and of course, truth, justice and the American way.
I can forgive Connelly a lot in that schema, for several reasons. One, his women, while sparse (oh come on, this is a noir, people. Unless it’s Sara Gran or Megan Abbott, you’re still looking at a sausage fest.)(Insert hardboiled dick joke here) have actual agency to them. They’re well built (down, peanut gallery!) and complex and exist as more than something for Bosch to fuck, although let’s face facts: two women with speaking roles in the entire novel and he prongs ‘em both. Thattaboy, Harry!
So it’s a dichotomy:
She had continued her life and its routines amidst the ruins of her marriage. She had put the tree up for herself. It made him feel her strength. She had a hard shell of hurt and maybe loneliness but there was a sense of strength, too. The tree said she was the kind of woman who would survive this, would make it through. On her own. He wished he could remember her name.
It’s also just phenomenally good writing. The city is vibrant and dirty and fucked-up and unfair. The plot is so twisty it’s like a sidewinder having a seizure. And it just never lets up. It keeps going and carries the reader along past things that could be considered problematic. The ending of this one, for instance, is completely insane, twistwise, yet looking back, it makes absolute perfect, watertight airproof sense.
Yeah, I’ll be continuing on to Concrete Blonde.
#32: The Black Echo – Michael Connelly:
Much later, Bosch got up from the bed, pulled on his pants and went out on the balcony to smoke. On Ocean Park Boulevard there was no traffic and he could hear the ocean’s noise from nearby. The lights were out in the apartment next door. They were out everywhere except on the street. He could see that the jacaranda trees along the sidewalk were shedding their flowers. They had fallen like a violet snow on the ground and the cars parked along the curb. Bosch leaned on the railing and blew smoke into the cool night wind.
Synopsis: Semi-disgraced LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch gets called out on a routine body-in-a-culvert call and discovers the victim is a fellow Vietnam tunnel rat. Then the FBI gets involved.
The first entry in the very rightly vaunted Bosh series (which is up to like, sixteen or something), I really thought about calling in sick to work one day this week so I could finish this book.
Harry Bosch is, as his temporary partner at the FBI points out, a product of institutional living. From group homes to a foster home to the Army to the LAPD, Bosch has lived his life serving faceless entities and getting out by the skin of his teeth. He’s not a superhero, but he is a survivor. And he’s kind of fascinating.
First of all, Connelly gives great L.A., which is kind of a ticklespot of mine. Second of all, while he’s a great detective, Harry’s also kind of stupid about people, which makes him more lovable. For instance, he gets hella distracted by his FBI partner’s ladyparts and who among us can say we’ve never lost our minds over some good pussy? I ask you.
But Bosch is also bulldog-tenacious and has a certain manner of waving away the smoke of a flaming wreckage and finding windows next to the doors that are slammed in his face, over and over again.
The plot is tight and impressive, and very very hardboiled. I for one, was completely awed by the ending plot twist, and I’m still kinda chewing on it and trying to figure out What It All Means.
And that’s basically what’s at the heart of this book: it’s a universal state to quest after that very thing, think you have it figured out and still be dead wrong.
Five stars. Super awesome book. Will totally be continuing on with the series.
# 20: California Fire and Life – Don Winslow:
So even though Casey has Paul Gordon, the biggest, baddest plaintiff’s attorney in Southern California in his office yelling about Armageddon, Casey is not exactly pissing his pants. This is because Casey is the biggest, baddest, defense attorney in the Southern Bear Flag Republic.
What you got here — if you’re a connoisseur of multimillion-dollar bad faith litigation — is you have the heavyweight championship of the world.
Gordon v. Casey.
You could make a mint from the pay-per-view rights just selling to attorneys who’d watch it in the hopes that they’ll actually kill each other.
Funny thing is they’re in the same office complex.
Synopsis: You don’t have to love California to read this book…but it helps
The Perils of Praline, or the Amorous Adventures of a Southern Gentleman in Hollywood by Marshall Thornton:
Certainly after he and Dave G. got married, bought that little house, furnished it, got their dogs and, who knows, maybe after a lot of talking and some parenting classes adopted a little Chinese girl, at that point perhaps Praline ought to settle down. But all that was a long way–
“Of course you don’t have an exclusive relationship. You’ve never met!” Jason screamed.
“Could you not yell at me?” Praline asked. “It’s been a really trying day.”
Synopsis: Hot sluts with dicks!