Valletta’s striking descriptions evoke a noir-ish California, as he cleverly uses minor details to show that Micheline, an East Coast transplant, doesn’t quite fit in, such as when she wears a “navy wool cardigan,” putting her at odds with her San Diego contemporaries. The diverse cast of colorful characters includes a blind voyeur, criminals, and exotic dancers with double lives, and Micheline in particular is so strong and engaging protagonist that readers will likely enjoy following for multiple novels. While this case gets mostly wrapped up, Valletta is careful to leave readers with plenty of questions in the end, opening them up for the next in the series.
Valletta’s choice to emulate some of the seedier aspects of earlier noir novels, especially salacious descriptions of female characters such as the “blonde with a body that would stop traffic” will likely strike many contemporary readers as trite or misogynistic despite the strong female protagonist, and his tendency to flit from one perspective to another makes it challenging at times track the narrative. However, the storyline is arresting, and will please fans of crime fiction with flawed characters, especially those who prefer the vital California noir subgenre.
Takeaway: An East Coast detective takes on a serial killer in California, while she struggles to make a new life in this promising series opener.
Great for fans of: James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia, G.K. Parks’s Likely Suspects.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A