The Bottom Line: This tasty 1950s L.A. noir crime novel goes down smoother than an Old Fashioned. Highly recommended.
Start with an intriguing balance of icy underworld, a down-on-his luck detective and his bitter past. Add tart and zesty characters that you can’t help but root for from the get-go, and stir vigorously.
Veteran fighter pilot-turned-detective Augy Small is down on his luck with no place to call his own, and he’s kept it mum to spare his sister worry and stave off any more gloating from his pompous brother-in-law. But in a freak moment that will change the trajectory of his life, Augy’s borrowed Ford truck collides with a woman running for her life across an LA canyon road late at night.
Soon Augy and this bloodied dark-haired beauty with a Russian accent are both running for their lives as the assailant emerges. The pair make a getaway, but before he can get her medical treatment she disappears. His only clue: a strange numerical brand he spied seared onto her shoulders. But is Augy prepared to find Katya, the mysterious woman who needs his help? And will he be able to keep it together as he dives into a dark case of human trafficking and medical experiments that force him to come to terms with his own painful past?
Author Laya V Smith proves that richly drawn characters and plot can make fine bedfellows in the noir genre. Smith’s cast is drawn with a deft hand that winks at the camp of the genre, yet feel real enough to draw readers in to be deeply invested in their journeys. Let’s hope Smith is already working on a sequel.