A Hollywood private eye’s on the case when a shooting puts him in the hospital and a councilman’s daughter in the morgue in Leptuch’s (Last of the Horse Pistols, 2013, etc.) latest thriller.
It’s 1950 in Los Angeles, and PI Jim Hedges’ meeting with Councilman Pat Ruxton is cut short when a single shot in a restaurant parking lot hits both Hedges and Ruxton’s daughter, Beatrix. Beatrix doesn’t make it, but the shooter’s target is unclear; possibilities include others in the vicinity, like Ruxton’s wife, Mamie, and Beatrix’s fiance, Eddie—or even Hedges himself. The detective, who was already looking into heroin junkie Eddie’s murky background, is now on the hunt for a killer. Hedges’ search has him bumping elbows with gangsters and vengeance-minded individuals, and more bodies will hit the ground before it’s finally over. This detective story takes full advantage of its Hollywood setting: Real-life mobster Mickey Cohen has a significant role in the plot, and Hedges earns clients from the movie business thanks to the discretion his front-door sign promises. The PI is refreshingly atypical and indelible; he doesn’t encounter a mysterious dame, spending most of his time with one he knows quite well—his new(ish) wife, Velvet (the book even opens with a description of how they met). And Hedges’ background, while not as dark as other gumshoes’, is appropriately inscrutable: He was shot back when he was a cop, not knowing if the bullet (which is still next to his heart) was from a gangster or his then-partner, Dworf, who’s working the Ruxton case. The mystery of Hedges’ tracking down the killer all but disappears once he finds the shooter at around the halfway point. The book continues to retain suspense (there are more murders), but thorough coverage of multiple characters’ perspectives makes readers privy to info that Hedges has yet to obtain and puts them well ahead of the detective. Dishy one-liners, however, crop up throughout, not just from the suave protagonist, who notes that the “slug” that killed Beatrix “must have hit her like a cement truck,” but from others as well, including Ruxton: He’s not worried about a man who “greased his own skids.”
A detective who’s much different from Chandler’s Marlowe but equally unforgettable.