CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS
by Paul Buchanan
Set in Los Angeles in the sweltering summer of 1962, this classic ‘noir’ detective novel beautifully captures the blistering heat and languorous mood of 1960's LA.
Private eye, Jimmy Keegan, used to be a hotshot crime reporter, but is now a lonely, middle-aged private eye, haunted by the recent suicide of Marilyn Monroe and grieving the death of his mother. When he’s approached by a mysterious man with a lucrative assignment that involves finding a young woman, he turns down the job but is surprised when the same woman turns up on the doorstep of his mother’s Hollywood Hills cottage. Soon events take a bizarre turn when man is killed and Keegan finds himself the prime suspect.
Keegan is a likeable and sympathetic character at a low point in his life. Alone and doomed to a solitary existence, his most meaningful relationship turns out to be the little dog, Nora, that he inherits from his mother. But at heart he’s a good guy who’s had some bad breaks and now regrets the way his life has turned out. Details like this make him come across as more flawed and human than the great Raymond Chandler’s iconic and hardboiled detective, Philip Marlowe. The narrative does lack the dark, sarcastic and often biting tone of Marlowe’s novels but Buchanan manages to capture the lush and decadent romanticism of the city of Angels, the damp, oppressive heat of its summer and the colourful cast of characters that Keegan comes across. Having spent a good deal of time in Los Angeles, Keegan's vivid lyricism frequently transported me back to the decaying grandeur of the City of Angels, albeit an earlier, simpler version of it.
Plenty of unexpected twists make this novel a real page turner and I predict (and hope) we’ll be reading another Jimmy Keegan case in the foreseeable future.
***** 5/5 stars
Thanks to Legend Press for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.