The Bottom Line: A potent shot of contemporary LA Noir that will have readers hooked from page one. Fans of Dennis Lehane and James Ellroy will love Force of Impact.
When LA horror novelist Bart Dillinger’s girlfriend doesn’t return home to the condo they share, he calls one of her friends to see if she’s seen her. The awkward call doesn’t produce any leads, so he phones Ethan Carr, a private investigator whose name Dillinger remembers from a news story. By the end of the call, Carr is on the case.
In neither conversation does Dillinger mention that he thought he saw two eyeballs nailed to the door of their condo. As he tells Carr, Dillinger has “no proof that anything bad has happened to her.” But, as he explains, he has a bad feeling about a dead body that washed up on the beach that day.
Readers that enjoy unreliable narrators are in for a feast with author Bryan Cassiday’s Bart Dillinger. Although author Bryan Cassiday alternates points of view between Dillinger, Carr and other characters, the dose of Dillinger’s perceived reality early on garners plenty of intrigue. The novelist has an overactive imagination and, at first blush, seems oddly paranoid about calling the police when his girlfriend goes missing. There are lots of other questions that beg to be answered as well. Why does he live in her condo, but in a separate bedroom from hers? Why doesn’t he know much about her friends? Also, there’s the fact that she’s a working actress, but in a world where IMDB data is just a click away, why doesn’t Dillinger know the names of anyone she has worked with?
Cassiday’s excellent fourth Ethan Carr series book is a perfect entry point for newcomers. Zero backstory is required to become completely immersed into Carr’s Los Angeles, which, drenched in rain and private club subculture, is as compelling as they come in contemporary noir. Carr may have some sordid history with local homicide detective Lt. Barrera, but Cassiday gives us just enough to make their tense interplay feel earned. Finally, don’t judge this book by its cover, which doesn’t even come close to capturing the Ellroy-esque intrigue simmering within. The pages inside are highly recommended.