Ex-con tries to keep straight in this hard-boiled first novel.
After he left the Marine Corps, Jimmy Boone turned his imposing physique and slightly violent temperament into a lucrative career as a bodyguard. After an unfortunate experience with a client, he ended up in Corcoran. Now, back on the outside, he’s tending bar on Hollywood Boulevard and trying to stay out of trouble. But Lange’s Los Angeles is built on the bones of Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, so all it takes is the mysterious death of an illegal immigrant to draw Boone into an ugly world of drugs, dog fights and truly inventive parole violations. Lange displayed his mastery of short fiction with the story collection Dead Boys (2007), in which each brief narrative felt true and inevitable. This longer, more complex tale occasionally feels contrived. But the author more than makes up for the slightly creaky plot with his compelling characters. Even the minor players are fully-formed, and Lange manages to depict a little bit of L.A. with each one. Consider, for example, T.K.: His day job is doing dirty work for a sociopathic crime boss, but his dream is to star in a series of martial-arts-influenced fitness DVDs that will be bigger than Tae Bo.
Smartly entertaining noir, and a promise of better novels to come.