A beach read, and more

I’ve followed Kristy Woodson Harvey’s writing career from the beginning, and I’ve enjoyed every step of the journey.

Reviewed by Linda C. Brinson

FEELS LIKE FALLING. By Kristy Woodson Harvey. Gallery Books, Simon & Schuster. 384 pages. $16.99, paperback.

Whether you’re heading to one of the recently re-opened beaches or passing the time at home, Kristy Woodson Harvey offers a new book likely to enhance your leisure time.

Harvey, a graduate of the UNC Chapel Hill journalism school, has been making quite a name for herself as a fiction writer over the last five or so years. She’s published two previous stand-alone novels and the Peachtree Bluff trilogy, all well received.

Though Harvey lives in Beaufort along what’s become known as North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, and readers who know that area will find that Peachtree Bluff seems mighty familiar, the series is officially set on Georgia’s coast. (Harvey said in an interview when the series debuted that someone at the publishing house thought there were too many novels set on North Carolina’s coast.)

But this new, stand-alone novel comes unapologetically home to the shores of North Carolina.

As with her other books, those who like to slot books into genres will call this one something like Dixie Chick Lit. It’s definitely a contemporary Southern novel, and because it’s mostly about the lives and concerns of women, most of its readers will be women.

But don’t let any of that make you think this is a shallow, clichéd or overly trendy book. Far from it. Once again, Harvey has pulled off the impressive feat of writing a novel that’s highly entertaining, fairly light reading, but also well written. Her books have complex, well-developed characters who often defy stereotypes. They take on serious issues a lot of women face, and they offer uplifting messages without seeming preachy.

Harvey is adept at using multiple points of view. This time, there are two primary characters whose very different lives intersect more or less by chance. Gray Howard is a well-to-do entrepreneur who built her own company and seems to lead the perfect life. She has her business, a husband and a darling son, and she gets to spend every summer at her beach house and the club at Cape Carolina.

Only this summer, she’s dealing with the recent death of her mother, her sister’s marriage to someone who seems a lot like a cult leader, and her husband’s decision to leave her in favor of the young executive assistant Gray had hired to help him with his job in her company. Oh, and her husband wants to share custody of their son and take half the business she built.

Diana Harrington, meanwhile, lives a life that could hardly be more different. She’s dealt with one disappointment after another. Having just left the latest in a series of no-good boyfriends, she’s reduced to living in her beat-up car. 

After Gray learns she inadvertently contributed to Diana’s getting fired from her job, she invites Diana to come to work for her and live in the guesthouse.

An unlikely friendship develops, one that turns out to be good for both of them as they work their way through changes in their lives and their attitudes. We follow their halting attempts to figure things out, reinvent their lives and learn from their mistakes, and we see how their unlikely friendship helps them both. There are wisdom and insight here, wrapped in a story that’s fun to read.

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Short and not sweet

Bob Moyer just keeps on reading, finding books to recommend for the entertainment and edification of the rest of us socially distanced folks. He’s a trouper!

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

TROUBLE IS WHAT I DO. By Walter Mosley. Mulholland Books. 176 pages. $24.

It’s too short.

The brevity of Walter Mosley’s latest book deprives us of the chance to relish at length his mastery of the underworld where detective Leonid McGill moves with such grace. Once a criminal fixer, McGill left that world but didn’t lose his connections. Mosley takes us to places in Manhattan nobody else sees, such as the subterranean cell where the stocky private eye likes to “question” people, and the hospital in a high rise that has a secret entrance and exit for people who can’t go to any other hospital.

That’s where Leonid puts Catfish Worry, the Mississippi bluesman who came to New York for his help. He has a letter that he needs to deliver to the daughter of Charles Sternman, the richest man in New York, from her grandmother. Catfish is her grandfather, and Sternman’s father. He has to go to the hospital because Sternman hired a hit man, who shot him. 

Sternman is a familiar character in a Mosley book, a man of light skin, self-loathing and racist, sometimes lethally so. It takes Leonid the length of the book to get the letter delivered. Along the path, he throws light on the other world Mosley illuminates for the reader — the plight of black lives in America. In his books, you know that “…a poor woman wasn’t going to get a fair trial; that the laws are for the rich to pick the pockets of everyone else; and that, at the crux of it, the only real law was the one that nature provides.” 

Mosley brings a new depth to Leonid this time out, affected by his son, Twill, and by Catfish’s grandson, and Catfish, who puts “…to song what make a grown man cry.” Their presence, their voices, give Leonid “…kinship to all of them, more biology than psychology, more mortal than divine.” As his son Twill says, ”Pop, I never heard you talk like that before.”

The struggle to deliver the letter to the granddaughter is a carefully crafted, profound parable for the obstacles thrown up for the black man and woman in America. Profound, but too short.

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Familiar, but new

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

HI FIVE. By Joe Ide. Mulholland Press. 337 pages. $27.

He seems familiar, but Isaiah Quintabe is the most unusual private eye in current mystery fiction. Undersized and overbrained, this African-American unlicensed detective can solve any crime, and does — just for the sake of doing it. He’s been known to take a casserole as payment for his services. Just ask his one-time partner Dodson. And he doesn’t let his personal relationships stop his obsessive pursuit of the truth. Just ask the love of his life, Grace. An obsessive, compulsive, socially awkward private eye in L.A. — that’s why he’s so familiar. He’s a direct descendant of Phillip Marlowe, the original obsessive, compulsive, socially awkward private eye, created by Raymond Chandler.

The mean streets that Marlowe went down don’t come close to the mean ’hoods where IQ, as he is known, lives and works. In all his previous books, he gets threatened, throttled and kidnapped. Things aren’t looking up in this latest episode. Angus, the biggest, and ugliest, arms dealer on the West Coast demands IQ clear his daughter of murder charges, or Angus will break IQ’s violinist friend’s fingers — and probably kill IQ. 

Christiana is accused of killing her boyfriend. The good news is there were five witnesses; the bad news is they are all inside the daughter Christiana. Thanks to an abused childhood, she suffers from multiple personality disorder. None of them saw the whole thing, and none of them will cooperate with IQ long enough for him to get a clear picture of what’s happening. He sets off on a dangerous path that involves run-ins with Angus’ crew, gang leaders, and a unique pair of hired killers. Nobody likes him, and everybody is after him. He makes deals that double back on him, and leave him in a darker place than any protagonist deserves — but he unravels the mystery in the last few pages.

Joe Ide is one of the most imaginative writers at work today. In addition to a page-turning plot, he weaves a complex tapestry of characterization. Even Angus, the vilest villain, has a backstory that brings us closer to him, and the returning characters become even more comprehensively human. Hi Five demonstrates the author’s increasing skill. It’s complete enough to be a stand-alone read, but why take away the pleasure of plowing through the three preceding books? Take a trip down the mean ‘hoods of IQ’s L.A.

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Same old … with some twists

Bob Moyer’s travels have been a bit curtailed by the pandemic, but the silver lining is that he has more time to read books and to write reviews.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

MUSEUM OF DESIRE. By Jonathan Kellerman. Ballantine Books. 368 pages. $28.99.

Same old, same old.

After forty-some entries, Alex Delaware mysteries take on a predictable, albeit satisfying pattern. Lt. Milo Sturgis of the LAPD calls in psychologist Alex Delaware when he finds something awry about a case. They drive around, question suspects, head down narrative paths of misdirection, stop to eat, and slowly the solution unrolls before them.

The murders here, however, are not same old, same old. Someone has posed four strangers in gruesome, bizarre positions in a limousine. Milo and Alex stumble about for some time before they find a web of ancient pornography, lust, and Nazis that holds even more horrific murders.

Of course, most of the same old, same old is what Delaware fans return to find. Once again the much-ballyhooed (by me) banter between the two “boys” keeps a bit of light between dark moments. 

Very evident here as well is something not always mentioned. Kellerman is a noted child psychologist. Over the years, he has honed his listening skills, and translated the rhythm of dialogue and voice into his writing. An aging one-hit starlet in a Mcmansion, a blue-haired gallery owner with a lot to hide, her addicted brother who can’t hide anything, all have unique voices. Kellerman reveals that Delaware was an abused child who “…made my way from Missouri to L.A. at 16 (in order to) stop hiding from a drunken, raging father.” It’s part of a little-revealed past that explains why Alex has such a knack for dialogue with troubled children and colleagues. The child here is an autistic boy who is an important witness. Scenes between Alex and him are particularly poignant. Alex also speaks succinctly but with careful support to a traumatized officer on the case.

This latest installment has the full range we expect in a Delaware novel, from pain to poignancy. In other words—

Same old, same old.

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On duty, always

My husband, Lloyd Brinson, was a Marine officer (oops; I’m told there’s no such thing as a former Marine, so should I say is?) who served in Vietnam. Much later, he was an elementary school principal. He finds that this children’s book has much to offer readers of all ages.

Reviewed by Lloyd Brinson

GOODNIGHT MARINES. By David R. Dixon. Illustrated by Phil Jones. Callsign Enterprises. 40 pages including Glossary.

One of the greatest joys to those of us who love to read is sharing tales about how we came to read this book or that article or how we came upon that essay or opinion piece.

Goodnight Marines was serendipitously presented to this well-traveled U. S. Marine veteran as a surprise gift from two very special young Navy officers who have served with Marines in various capacities, including being aboard amphibious ships for extended deployments, with Marines not always on their best behavior.

Goodnight Marines is disguised as a children’s picture book. But, having been immersed in The Corps tradition in boot camp, I realized that many adult readers could get a better idea of who Marines are by reading this little book and enjoying the delightful artwork.

The story begins with a boy in a room full of battle toys and symbols of Marine history. He’s imagining… “In a land overseas, in a far away place…” His father is Over There, “… guarding his base.”

As you join the boy’s mind envisioning the Marines and the traditional symbols of The Corps who support his dad, the author, David R. Dixon, leads the reader through a short course of Marine history and lore. It is no mistake that his history and the artwork by Phil Jones are so accurate: Both men are Marine combat veterans.

The boy and his stuffed companion, Tuffy Hound, are getting sleepy, so they begin saying “goodnight” to more Marine symbols, occupational specialties, artifacts, heros and characters. The parade is not all inclusive, but it is representative of the rich tradition of nearly 250 years The Corps has been in existence.

The mood has been set, most of the supporting cast is asleep (even Tuffy), but the boy has to say “goodnight” to “heroes who answer the call,” those who gave all, and to his dad in Afghanistan.

But that’s not nearly the end of this little jewel of a picture book. After the story, we find Tuffy sitting at attention facing the words of The Marines’ Hymn. Tuffy, whose name is explained in the Glossary, seems to be saying: “Rest easy world, the Marines are on duty, and while you and I sleep, Marines are awake – all over the world.”

There are then a couple of pages explaining about the author and the artist and how this book came about. The Glossary will provide even the most casual adult reader vivid insight as to why those of us who chose and were chosen to be United States Marines live lives devoted to serving others in the face of whatever confronts us.

I have read, paged through and studied this little book a dozen times and have not been able to figure out why it is so appealing to me. Part of its appeal is the powerful depiction of the Marine Corps with such simplicity. And, there is the emotional tug elicited by being faced with so much of the Marine tradition all these many years out of boot camp. And then there is Tuffy, who seems to have been cleverly placed to remind us of the possibilities our children face in an uncertain present and future.

Goodnight little boy. Goodnight mom and dad Marines everywhere. Goodnight to the brave sailors and Marines I served with in extraordinary times; I trust this younger generation is ready for the next extraordinary time. Sleep tight, little Tuffy – you might have to be a Devil Dog someday. 

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Farewell, bold adventurer

Reviewed by Linda C. Brinson

JOURNEY OF THE PHARAOHS. By Clive Cussler and Graham Brown. Penguin Audio. Read by Scott Brick. 10 hours; 8 CDs. $45. 

My review copy of the audio version of Journey of the Pharaohs, Clive Cussler’s latest NUMA files novel, arrived on my front porch the same day that word of Cussler’s death hit the news.

That was Feb. 26, two says after he died, and a sad day for those who love Cussler’s adventure-packed tales. An Air Force veteran of the Korean War who learned to dive in Hawaii, Cussler started writing his adventure tales in 1965, when he started taking care of the children at night while his wife, Barbara, worked a late shift at the local police department. Cussler was an advertising copywriter by day.

His debut novel, The Mediterranean Caper (later renamed Mayday), starring Dirk Pitt, was published in 1973. After his second novel came out in 1975 and his popularity soared, Cussler quite his day job. 

Over the years, he has published 85 books, selling more than 100 million copies. He developed several series in addition to the Dirk Pitt tales. 

In recent years, at the urging of his publisher, he began working with a few collaborators and sometimes turned out as many as four books in a year. He’s written books for children and young adults as well as adults. That’s how I first started reading his books: One of my sons checked some of the children’s books out of the library and started talking excitedly about them.

Critics frequently – and with justification – have pointed out that Cussler’s writings are not exactly great works of art. His more or less formulaic plots strain credulity, his poorly developed characters are almost cartoonish, and, and his prose is full of clichés.

But who cares? The books are full of interesting descriptions of shipwrecks and relics. There’s high adventure, usually involving both a quest for some sort of treasure and battles with evil villains. Often, part of the formula is to start with some event in history that at least MIGHT have happened. 

Fans also appreciate that Cussler’s real life was full of adventure, and that he drew on it for his books. The NUMA files books, including Journey of the Pharaohs, feature a fictitious U.S. government agency, but in real life, Cussler created a nonprofit called NUMA that finds and helps preserve shipwrecks and other archaeological treasures. He explored some 60 shipwreck sites.

The book that arrived the day we learned of Cussler’s death is a particularly entertaining one. It starts in 1074 with the disappearance of a vast store of treasures from the tombs of pharaohs in Egypt. 

Then we hear/read about a flashy American aviator who disappeared while trying to fly across the Atlantic, not long before Lindbergh managed the feat.

In the present day, Kurt Austin, the NUMA team and an attractive British woman (who is she, really?) just happen to be around when a fishing trawler carrying a mysterious cargo sinks during a storm off the coast of Scotland.

Of course, action, treachery, crime, heroism, puzzle-solving and racing across the ocean ensue. Priceless artifacts are at stake. And where did those ancient Egyptians who ran off with the treasures really manage to go? No spoilers here; let Cussler tell you.

Scott Brick reads the audio version with his usual perfect delivery. 

Will there be more Clive Cussler novels? News reports at the time of his death said a book in the Oregon Files series will be published later this year. Whether any of the collaborators will try to keep things going after that remains to be seen.  Those of us who haven’t read all 85 of his novels still have a lot of adventures to look forward to.

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Out of ‘faded shadows’

Bob Moyer reviews a memoir that’s also the story of piecing together a very personal puzzle.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

WHEN TIME STOPPED: A Memoir of My Father’s War and What Remains. By Ariana Neumann. Scribner. 321 pages. $28.

Growing up in Caracas, author Ariana Neumann knew of her father’s family only from the faded black-and-white photograph he kept of his parents. Hans Neumann emigrated to Venezuela immediately after World War II and became a leading industrialist. His daughter easily recalls the handful of times he gave any hints about his life in Czechoslovakia before or during the war. She did not realize she was Jewish until she went to school in America. When he died, she got a surprise. Her father left papers, identity cards and other material, all in German or Czech, about the life she never knew.

In a box.

That materiele became a jigsaw puzzle that took years of detection, research, love and imagination to put together, that life her father refused to mention. Some of the pieces led to other pieces—an album from her Uncle Lotar’s daughter, another box from a cousin in California. A photo of her father as a boy stuns her with its similarities to her son. Translations of the letters and help from a researcher in Prague led her to the house in the countryside her family owned. There, the owner shared with her the contents of the safe, “a snapshot of their lives, catapulted across the distance of place and time,” that had remained in the house unopened for 85 years. Some pieces came indirectly, like “misplaced files.” Her cousin suddenly remembers the name of her Uncle Lotar’s first wife’s daughter’s boyfriend in Switzerland. This connection leads to a major part of the puzzle, a gentile girl who married into the family and played a major role in the family’s survival.

Survival is perhaps not the appropriate term. Twenty-five of the 34 members of the Czech family perished in the Holocaust. Yet the picture that emerges from Neumann’s piecing together of pictures, letters, notes and memories is ”…laced with vivid glimmers of light.”  “… interspersed amid the horror were wisps of beauty and love,” moments of normalcy, seated at dinner, walking down the street, letters of daily life sent to the American branch of the family. In spite of the tightening of the Nazi noose around Jewish life in Prague, Neumann gives us glimpses of people bravely living the best they could.

Until the family is ordered to report for shipment to Terezin, the way station created for Czechs on their way to Auschwitz. Both parents were transported. Older brother Lotar, married to a gentile, “disappears.”  But Hans, the “unfortunate” younger son who is a prankster, does the unthinkable. With the help of friends and forged papers, he moves to Berlin and gets a research job. He spends the rest of the war hiding in plain sight.

The majority of the papers in the box were Hans’ record of his life in Berlin. This record, interspersed with the fates of the mother and father in letters and interviews, takes up the final section of the book. By this time, what started as a jigsaw puzzle has turned into what Neumann calls “a mosaic of assembled reminiscences.” The theme of time in the title arises from this assembling. She starts with her memory of her father working on his beloved watches, his fingers so still it “…would suggest time had stopped.” One of the watches he owned reminds him of one of his father’s. That leads to an anecdote in which his father’s watch ends up on Hans’ plate, when he is late for dinner. Later, she finds a picture of him as a young man looking with the same intensity she saw in his work on watches, into the viewfinder of a camera. Finally, she brings back her father’s fascination with watches, when he tells her it started when he was a young man in Prague. He said “… he had so much time on his hands that he felt that time had stopped.” In that time, isolated from everyone, “The turning wheels, ticking each second away, had reassured him.”

Neumann has expertly collated recollections of her unknown family, and consolidated them with her memories, photographs and hundreds of documents. She takes her family out of “faded shadows,” into vivid life in this book.

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Bad guys, beware

Bob Moyer invites us to follow the Hawk as she pursues her prey – and is pursued.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

A SMALL TOWN. By Thomas Perry. Mysterious Press. 320 pages. $26.

The opening pages of this book might just be the most painful Thomas Perry has ever penned.  A gang of prisoners kills the guards of a prison outside A Small Town, takes their clothes and cars, heads for town, and rapes and kills the families.  They leave the gates open, and more than 1,200 prisoners with mayhem and murder on their minds flood the town.  The town is devastated.

Two years later, the 12 leaders have not been caught. The town’s population is dwindling, and more than 80 percent of the population is planning to leave, or think that they should.  The police chief decides to take a year off to “study police procedures” around the country with access to federal monies for research.  In other words, she heads off to kill the men who killed her town.

And that’s when the usual “fun” in a Perry novel starts.  His protagonist, whether chased or chasing, always ends up standing at the end of the novel.  The bad guys don’t.  Chief Leah Hawkins, known as “Hawk” for her basketball prowess, uses all her skill to track the prisoners down, and take them out.

Perry uses all his skill to keep us engaged.  A master of plot, even when the reader knows what is going to happen, Perry produces devious killings that that no one could possibly imagine but him.  When the body count piles up, the prisoners catch on, and come after the Hawk.  As happens frequently in a Perry adventure, she becomes chased as well as chaser, adding to the suspense.  While Perry speeds up the action, he maintains a deliberate pace to the slow reveal of how the prison break happened. Headed toward a violent climax, the narrative catches us up in the momentum.  Chief Hawkins overcomes, of course, and A Small Town, somewhere in the Midwest, gets a new life.  

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A memoir, and much more

Bob Moyer loves New Orleans and visits often. Here he reviews a book about a side of New Orleans most tourists don’t visit, a book about “people that people don’t write books about.”

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

THE YELLOW HOUSE. By Sarah M. Broom. Grove Press. 304 pages. $26.

New Orleans has certain phrases that are — well, New Orleans. “Where y’at?” Is a common greeting.  It’s also common for people to chant “Where you from?” to people parading through neighborhoods, second-lining behind parades. Sarah Broom would give a loud, emphatic answer to that chant — NEW ORLEANS EAST.

That’s where The Yellow House she grew up in with 11 brothers and sisters was located. New Orleans East shouldn’t even exist. Swampland, below sea level, cut through by ill-advised waterways, developed by greed, grossly mismanaged by government, New Orleans East was no kind of tourist destination. No one ever headed off I-10 West to see the sights of Chef Menteur Highway, especially the half-street known as Wilson where the yellow house was located. In this marvel of a memoir, Sarah “Monique” Broom mixes family history, oral history, political deviance, city portrait, and personal memoir — sometimes all on the same page. Reflective at times, riveting at others, this book is about people that people don’t write books about.  Like many families, the 11 children either worked at the local NASA facility, or took the bus 15 miles into the city to take care of the tourists in hotels, restaurants and bars. New Orleans East was “…a city where being held up while getting out of your car is the norm, where many children graduate from school without knowing how to spell, where neglected communities exist everywhere, sometimes a stone’s throw from overabundance.”  Long before Katrina, local residents were familiar with the “waters,” surging into the swamp of a city through commercial waterways.  One of Broom’s brothers remembers learning to swim from their house to the shop on the corner.  But — it was her home.

And then came Katrina. The most peripatetic of her family (she travels to New York, Burundi, Paris, Berlin and other parts of the world during the course of the book), Broom watched the flood from a distance. She wasn’t surprised, however: “Those images shown on the news of fellow citizens drowned, abandoned, and calling for help were not news to us, but still further evidence of what we long ago knew.”  For her, and most of the people in New Orleans, Katrina and its aftermath were “…a metaphor for much of what New Orleans represents: blatant backwardness about the things that count.”

Before Katrina, 11 members of her family lived in New Orleans. After Katrina, only two remained, and that number stayed that way. Broom left again and again, only to return. A constant theme in her narrative is the struggle to be “from” New Orleans while leaving so often. The Yellow House is at the center of the family’s life, even when the city tears it down. It is only then that she comes to terms with the loss of that center: “I had no home. Mine had fallen all the way down. I understood, then, that the place I never wanted to claim had, in fact, been containing me. We own what belongs to us whether we claim it or not. When the house fell down, it can be said, something in me opened up. Cracks help a house resolve internally its pressures and stresses, my engineer friend had said. Houses provide a frame that bears us up. Without that physical structure, we are the house that bears itself up. I was now the house.”

It takes 11 years for Broom’s mother to get a settlement for her house, and then that sum was based on pre-Katrina value, not what it would cost to replace it. When Ivory Mae sells the property, a palpable sense of true loss permeates the conclusion. Broom has captured in the history of The Yellow House a history of a whole generation, and an homage to the people who lived in New Orleans East, then and now.

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Spenser’s in LA, but everything else is in its place

Bob Moyer has read a lot of Spenser books, and he says Ace Atkins has things pretty well in hand in this latest.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

ANGEL EYES. A Spenser Novel. By Ace Atkins. Penguin. 320 pages. $27.

Everything in its place. That’s what Spenser fans expect after 48 books in the series, all the stuff that makes up the adventures of the one-name Boston private eye. Created by Robert B. Parker, Spenser has lived on thanks to the pen of Ace Atkins, who has honed his capture of Spenser essence. He shows us just how much in this latest work.

Like the wise-guy cracks Spenser is famous for. Faced with a cadre of Serbian gangsters, Spenser says to the leader, “Did you get a deal on that tracksuit, or did you lose a bet?”  And the sizeable sidekick, in this case Zebulon Sixkill, the Indian Spenser mentored many volumes ago. He provides both backup and banter, mostly as a straight man. When Spenser says one of the crooks is “… a disreputable thug with a horrible dental plan,” Sixkill replies “And what are we?” Spenser shoots back, “Reputable thugs with good teeth.”  A literate sort of P.I., Spenser usually drops quotes from Shakespeare all over the place. This time, he slips in some Thoreau and Dylan Thomas. Susan, Spenser’s main squeeze these many years, also makes a requisite appearance and contribution to solving the crime at the core of the book. Yes, everything in its place.

Except Spenser — he’s in Los Angeles. The daughter of one of Susan’s friends has disappeared, and Spenser has been hired to find her. He heads off into the wilds of Hollywood, and encounters characters cut straight from the headlines — a con artist cult leader who likes to keep the cute girls near him, and a movie magnate who makes promises to pretty girls, but doesn’t pay off, even if they do. Aided by a team of local tough guys, the reputable thugs take on the best the thugs have to give, and come out with the girl, of course. 

The travel around LA gives Spenser ample opportunity to comment on the city: “I passed billboards for new TV shows and big summer blockbusters, breast enlargement and liposuction. Accident lawyers smiled down on me, promising to fight for me at all costs. Everything was pancake flat and spread out into an ever-expanding void of nothingness. More 7-Elevens, 76 gas stations, and endless chain drugstores along the sunbaked streets. I fought the radio dial to find something that I recognized, lucking upon some Art Pepper. Rain began to hit the windshield and I snapped on the wipers. I passed a strip club lit in purple neon. Another billboard advertised a big Cinderella musical coming to town.”  

With that kind of hard-boiled prose, and quotes from old movies no one recognizes, Atkins has raised his game. Let’s see what happens in the next episode, when Spenser gets back to Boston. He can’t wait, and neither can his fans.

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