An ex-boxer on the skids winds up providing security to a massage parlor in this hard-boiled slice of the Los Angeles lower depths.
Nick, the former slugger at the center of this debut, is trying to survive on the fringes of LA when a fading actor hires him to provide security at the rub-and-tug joints which constitute his only income. A pair of thugs is terrorizing the city’s massage parlors in a spree of robbery and rape. While on his new job, Nick meets Jenny, a college student paying for her studies by working as a masseuse, and also DuPree, a hood who bristles when he finds that Nick is unwilling to let him use the parlor girls the way he’s used to. The novel is more focused on the particular private trap in which each character finds him- or herself than on the inevitable showdown between Nick and DuPree. That wouldn’t be a problem if the book weren’t so humorless and if it weren’t drowning in hard-boiled clichés. Nick is the fighter afraid of the violence inside him after a man he fought is left dead, and Jenny, a smart, appealing character who holds herself above her trade, is merely a vessel for the moralism about sex work into which this kind of fiction often falls. The book is so determined to remain grim that it shortchanges its most likable characters.
This lowdown SoCal noir winds up like its heroine, so focused on getting the job done that it doesn’t provide extras.