Los Angeles detective Tom Logan investigates the death of a troubled movie starlet in this sequel, his second noir set during Hollywood’s golden age.
It’s 1931, and the City of Angels is in the midst of its most celebrated period: the studio era, which isn’t always kind to young actresses or honest cops. After ruffling too many feathers during a high-profile case, Logan, a no-nonsense gumshoe full of snark, was forced to resign from the LAPD. With Logan now a private eye, one of his newest clients turns into a beautiful corpse overnight—as pretty girls are wont to do in hard-boiled murder mysteries. A security guard discovers the body of Gertrude Hurd, a platinum blonde in the mold of Marilyn Monroe, on the steps outside her Malibu apartment. Logan initially fingers local mob boss Armando Scaparetti, one of Gertie’s many ex-boyfriends; after all, just a few days before her death, she came to Logan looking for protection from the infamous gangster with ties to the movie studios. But in author Piazza’s (The Curse of the Crimson Dragon, 2012, etc.) fresh spin, prime suspect Scaparetti then hires the detective himself to solve the mystery. Aided by his plucky secretary-turned-girlfriend, Rita, and the nearly unintelligible Irish police officer Red Clancy, Logan uncovers Gertie’s secret life behind the camera, including drugs, seedy male acquaintances and romantic rivals. As the web of suspects widens and the evidence of corruption rises all the way up to City Hall, another dead body appears. Earnest and dutiful, the narrative aims for the minimalist prose of Raymond Chandler but often channels the overly procedural narrator of noir B-movies. And though more concerned with nostalgia than invention, the plot hits the right notes as it crescendos toward a well-orchestrated coda.
A sentimental caper that mostly follows the genre formula, with a few refreshingly original flourishes.