How does a respectable young woman fall into Los Angeles' hard-boiled underworld? Shadow-dodging through the glamorous world of 1950s Hollywood and its seedy flip side, Megan Abbott's debut, Die a Little, is a gem of the darkest hue. This ingenious twist on a classic noir tale tells the story of Lora King, a schoolteacher, and her brother Bill, a junior investigator with the district attorney's office. Lora's comfortable, suburban life is jarringly disrupted when Bill falls in love with a mysterious young woman named Alice Steele, a Hollywood wardrobe assistant with a murky past.
Made sisters by marriage but not by choice, the bond between Lora and Alice is marred by envy and mistrust. Spurred on by inconsistencies in Alice's personal history and possibly jealous of Alice's hold on her brother, Lora finds herself lured into the dark alleys and mean streets of seamy Los Angeles. Assuming the role of amateur detective, she uncovers a shadowy world of drugs, prostitution, and ultimately, murder.
Lora's fascination with Alice's "sins" increases in direct proportion to the escalation of her own relationship with Mike Standish, a charmingly amoral press agent who appears to know more about his old friend Alice than he reveals. The deeper Lora digs to uncover Alice's secrets, the more her own life begins to resemble Alice's sinister past, and present.
"Abbott...crafts a stylish, sensuous tale with picture-perfect period trappings. "(Publishers Weekly)
"She does nail a similarly hushed and lurid tone in a tale that smolders like the night's last, forgotten cigarette." (Booklist)
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Mafia and prostitution?
What an interesting view into a mixed world. The brother/husband as a policeman, perhaps intentionally, doesn't see the world in which he married. The sister – narrator and main character – tries hard to find answers to more and more confusing and inconsistent aspects of her sister-in-law's life. It's unclear as to what the goals of that sister-in-law are, but the glimpses and truths all around her paid a varied and intriguing picture.
The author appears to try to become part of the confusion and intrigue. I liked her particular intriguing take on the whole situation. Interesting book. Not specifically a mystery per se, and although it's listing in Audible is as "history", it really doesn't pretend to be a true history. But I enjoyed it.
- Marsha L. Woerner