I got a complimentary digital copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review from the author – thank you very much!
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
1978: The wave of gentrification has yet to break over downtown Los Angeles, and vast swathes of the warehouse district lie nearly abandoned next to the sterile trench of the city’s concrete-clad river.
Lenny Strasser, a straight-arrow type with a taste for shady places, plunges into that world to discover that sometimes the only distance between two points is a very crooked line. When Lenny’s friend Dave Larrabee nags him into helping to track down a missing girlfriend, Lenny suspects that the girl doesn’t want to be found. He knows her all too well: she was his before she was Dave’s, and she’d gone gleefully missing from his life one time too many. Worse, he’s not entirely sure he’s over his feelings for the theatrical and self-centered Kate.
But this time it wasn’t one of her ordinary infidelities–she may have fallen, again, into the hands of the charismatic Nighthawk, who could lead her into territories where the danger is real and role-playing no protection from harm. The quest takes them into hobo jungles and punk squats by the LA River–and into an after-midnight darkness of moral ambiguity that changes Lenny’s life in ways he’d never dreamed of.
It’s always a very good or a very bad sign if I start writing my review before I finish my read. I started the review of this one after the half-book mark. This time I was definitely impressed and charmed.
The narration ( the first person unlimited voice) I found incredibly smooth and enticing. It pulled me in and refused to let go till the very end. The sad (or maybe rather nostalgic) story of Lenny Strasser, his flighty former love interest called Kate, Dave Larrabee currently in love with Kate, and their mutual rival, Dutton, a drug peddler and a poseur extraordinaire, was simple all things considered, but mesmerizing. Or maybe just told in a very good way. The relationships between characters in the novel, however, were anything but simple. I might even risk a statement they were very complex. Like love. They felt right and resonated in perfect accordance with my own feelings. Anyway I enjoyed it immensely, letting the narrative flow to carry me to the final denouement.
The best thing is that, even though you visit the seedier quarters of Los Angeles and meet all the characters through Lenny’s eyes, everything and everybody is as three-dimensional and real as if a friend was telling you a true story. The novel has an original climate; it might seem dark and slightly pessimistic but I found it very enticing. You know, I am like a bat – I love darkness or at least dusk. It has also some slightly dreamy poetic quality, finding and describing beauty of quite unexpected places.
If I HAD to complain a little bit I would say one thing: no strong female characters. Sheela the hairdresser was good but a bit sketchy and coming to your full attention only near the very end. Bloody Mary a.k.a Marie, the homeless French lesbian was also interesting but even more sketchy. Kate could have been good if only we saw and heard from her more often. The first person narration, like everything in life, has some drawbacks even if it is performed very well.
I liked this one very much and it was a very pleasant surprise. I was able to read it during two evenings, enjoying every moment of it. I recommend it if you want to visit Los Angeles of the late 70s or just read a good, interesting story.