Stromme’s third mystery but first to appear here showcases a solitary noir hero in a hardscrabble ’90s Los Angeles neighborhood of quirky outsiders.
First-person narrator Joe pieces together a living as a public writer (résumés, letters, speeches) in his gritty multilingual district. Naturally, he has an unfinished novel in his bottom desk drawer. Joe shares his office with chatty Teresa, who assists him with some projects and also styles hair (the current hot neighborhood ’do is the Shanna). His best client is a lonelyheart named Willy, for whom he pens letters to potential brides overseas. Other neighborhood denizens include Beanie, a loud street philosopher, and Belinda, a greasy-spoon proprietress. An unlikely romance blossoms when an artist named Clio visits Teresa for a cut that will make her look like Jean Seberg. With matchmaking in mind, Teresa suggests that Clio could help Joe jazz up his work. The couple’s chemistry is obvious, their romance fueled by a mutual love of baseball. But adjusting to one another takes more work than either wants to undertake. Does Joe really want a relationship, or is he content to fantasize like Willy about distant women? Matters get more complicated, and dangerous, when Beanie is unexpectedly killed and one of the foreign damsels Willy’s been corresponding with arrives unannounced—and uninvited—at Joe’s office.
Easygoing but not particularly evocative or interesting, and only nominally a mystery.