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Corey Lynn Fayman
The Esmeralda Goodbye

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Market)

In the sleepy seaside town of La Jolla, California, rookie cop Jake Stirling saves renowned author Raymond Chandler from committing suicide. Jake’s decisive action earns the respect of his hard-nosed captain, Wade Lennox, who served on the force with Jake’s father, a detective whose career was destroyed by the scandalous, still unsolved Creeper case. Jake and his family have pulled together to deal with their father’s self-destruction, but teenaged brother Danny’s rebelliousness threatens their fragile cohesion. A year later, Jake gets called to the Hotel Del Charro, where up-and-coming starlet Zsa Zsa Gabor reports her diamond necklace and a train case have been stolen. Her paramour, political wheeler-dealer Artie Corcoran, accuses the local police of corruption while another guest, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, demands Jake’s loyalty and hints at an international conspiracy. Notorious mobsters Meyer Lansky and Carlos Marcello check into the hotel and turn up the heat. A local gangster is murdered, and Captain Lennox intervenes in Jake’s investigation. Raymond Chandler returns—a cynical prophet of doom seeking his confiscated revolver. When Creeper case suspect and town golden-boy Todd DuBarry turns up dead with Chandler’s gun at his feet, police detectives begin to suspect Jake in a series of murders. Jake’s brother Danny discovers Gabor’s train case, which holds a secret so damning it could change the course of American history. As powerful forces close in, Jake scrambles to vindicate himself and save his brother’s life. A deadly shootout with Lennox leaves Jake physically and emotionally damaged but more determined than ever to find the Creeper and clear his father’s name.
Murders, mobsters, intelligence agency intrigue, and a touch of old-Hollywood glamor power this accomplished crime noir novel from Fayman (author of the Rolly Waters mystery series). In the 1950s, San Diego police officer Jake Stirling’s career is off to a successful start after he prevents the suicide of harboiled author Raymond Chandler, whose titles are echoed by this novel’s. The next year, Jake, assigned to La Jolla, is called to investigate the theft of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s diamond necklace and the train case it was stored in from the Del Charro Hotel room she shares with her latest paramour, Artie Corcoran. Working the case, Jake meets FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who seeks Jake’s loyalty, asking him to update Hoover about the investigation rather than Jake’s boss, Captain Wade Lennox. Jake recovers the missing necklace, but not the train case, but the body count rises, with gangsters like Meyer Lansky seemingly involved.

Uncertain who to trust, Jake—a good cop who joined the force “to serve and protect”—endeavors to find the truth before anyone else winds up dead, including him. Fayman adds authenticity to this brisk, twisty mystery with a richly evoked milieu, from beach mansions to sea caves to a Hollywood premiere, and historical figures with a real La Jolla connection. Their fictionalized dialogue and motivations feel fitting to the genre—Chandler even tips Jake off to classic noir elements like the possible corruption of the police department and the captain he works for.

The story finds Jake’s faith in institutions tested as he learns that even Hoover is not upstanding in either how he treats others or in his blatant racist remarks. Bursts of action and romance are effective, but it is Fayman’s stunning conclusion, with Jake faced with the reality of not trusting anyone in his professional life, and the hint of future installments, that will resonate most with readers.

Takeaway: A young cop can trust no one in this superior 1950s California noir.

Comparable Titles: Steph Cha’s Follow Her Home, Jordan Harper’s Everybody Knows.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A