An unreported lynching spurs a musician to action.
Los Angeles in 1926 has four supreme power brokers: rival newsmen Hearst and Chandler; rogue police chief Two Gun Davis; and charismatic, showboating evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. None of them is eager to acknowledge that Frank Gaines has been strung up in Echo Park, right across from Aimee’s Temple. But a chance reading of the Forum, an underground leaflet, brings the outrage to the attention of Tom Hickey, a white musician eking out a living for himself and his rowdy young sister Florence. Hickey and Gaines had been friends, and Hickey can’t let the assault pass in the silence everyone else is sharing. His investigation, which gets some help from LAPD detective Leo Weiss, leads past the Klan, union busters and spurious business dealings to a cover-up of a poisoning centered on romantic philandering that implicates Hickey’s own mother, Milly, a wildly chaotic, abusive woman who tormented her children until they finally ran away. Hickey will be tailed, beaten up and shot at; Weiss will be removed from the force; and Florence will nearly be brought to a complete mental collapse by the actions of Milly and her latest paramour.
Kuhlken (The Vagabond Virgins, 2008, etc.) overloads his plot beyond his ability to keep the tangled lines clear and sprinkles 1926 decor with the gusto of a tour bus guide.