Friday, December 29, 2006

Sugar High

Yes indeedy-do, I'm back home in California. I'm hoping that now I can get back to relative normalcy as far as my reading is concerned. The good news is I finished a very good mystery on the plane ride home.

The Basics: Sugar Skull by Denise Hamilton. This is book two in her series about Los Angeles Times reporter, Eve Diamond.

The Plot: Eve is working at the downtown office of the Times when a frantic man gets past security and begs her for help. His daughter, a privileged 15-year-old private school girl, has gone missing and the cops won't do anything about it until 48 hours have passed. He thinks he knows where the girl is, in an abandoned building where she hangs out with street kids. Eve agrees to go with him to the "squat," where they discover the girl dead.

The Good: This sounds like a fairly basic set-up, but Hamilton soon takes it off into other directions. She employs one of my favorite mystery novel devices - several crimes (in this case, murders) that look unrelated but are actually connected. I mean, how do the death of a rich girl slumming it, a transvestite prostitute, a mayoral candidate's glamorous wife, and a drive-by shooting fit together? Guess what, it does! And watching the author weave the storylines together is half the fun.

The Bad: Um, really not much here. I wanted a bit more resolution about the dead girl's father. Also Eve seems to be developing a habit of getting involved with men who are contacts to stories she's working on. She did it in the first book, The Jasmine Trade, and she did it again here in Sugar Skull. The reader pretty much knows that it ain't going to end well, but Eve merrily traipses on.

Final Verdict: I liked this story a lot. One of the things that appeals to me so much about this series is that Hamilton writes about the "real L.A." It's not all glitz, glamour and Hollywood. She tackles the real melting pot - a diverse city with a large immigrant population and a serious poverty/homeless problem. Yes, they have a skid row in L.A. Final Grade = B+

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