After discovering that the missing man was involved with the Black Fist, a powerful cartel, Ellis meets a foreboding cast who bring danger and violence to the investigation. The case turns personal, as Ellis discovers a surprising family connection, but the storytelling always is, as Ellis narrates in crisp, wry, fleet-moving prose—and faces friends and loved ones who are beginning to distance themselves from the spiral Ellis has chosen to ride out. His secretary, Reshma, is especially compelling, a character readers will hope secures a happier ending than her beginning would suggest.
Before an ending that offers welcome promise, Ellis’s own future doesn’t look much brighter than his present, as for most of the book he seems to have made his decision to wallow in the memory of all the big breaks and moments that haven't gone his way, despite the pain this brings to those he cares about. The title suggests Dorothy B. Hughes’s marvelous In a Lonely Place, but Vaughn’s Los Angeles is less dreamy, its sunsets shining on dog waste. Vaughn’s especially good at conjuring made-up cultural product, the junk that Hollywood would rather make than anything Ellis ever pitched, and frequent mentions of real shows and songs, including a disquisition on 1991 hits by Bryan Adams and Swing Out Sister, find Ellis drowning in pop. Here’s hoping this promising series soon finds him in a better place.
Takeaway: Promising series starter of a reluctant detective embroiled in L.A. noir.
Comparable Titles: Phoef Sutton’s Heart Attack and Vine, Timothy Hallinan’s Nighttown.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A