By Jeffrey Fleishman; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman
First, the murderer targets architects, the celebrity architects who shape and define the face of the city.
Secondly, the murderer is investigating the L.A.P.D. detective as intensely as he is investigating the crimes. The main difference is that the murderer knows who to look for; the detective doesn’t initially.
The detective of the title is Sam Carver. The possessive “my” belongs to Dylan Cross, a talented architect, a woman who feels scorned by her professional colleagues and a serial killer.
On the opening pages, Dylan cuts the throat of architect Michael J. Gallagher on a seedy block in downtown. She lets his body fall to the sidewalk and vanishes in the darkness.
“A murder’s a story with an end, but you have to find the beginning,” Carver tells Gallagher’s ex-wife.
Carver drives a battered late 1980s Porsche, lives in a renovated 1920s Italianate building catty-corner from the Biltmore Hotel, where the Black Dahlia was last seen alive in 1947. He drinks at a bar called the Little Easy. He stares from his windows down at a pile of trash and treasurers a homeless woman organizes across the street. He randomly brings her tea and Scotch or a $10 bill.
Author Jeffrey Fleishman, a reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times, is no Raymond Chandler, but he does have a feel for L.A. His brisk vignettes bring the city to life: the long lines at Egg Slut in the Grand Central Market, urine-scented stairs leading up to the Water Court on Olive Street, the toy-like Angels Flight funicular running tween Hill and Olive streets, and the liquid curves of Disney Hall.
The nearly romantic pas de deux between murderer and detective is intriguing. When Carver goes to crimes scenes, Dylan hacks into his computer and reads his diary. She knows his memories and regrets as no one else in his life does. As Carver picks up clues and evidence, he fills in a portrait of Dylan with more sympathy than cops usually give killers.
While this is an enjoyable book to read, it tests a reader’s credulity. Dylan is clearly a sociopath; it’s hard to believe a romance could ever exist between her and any rational man, much less a detective investigating the bloody results of her obsessions.
This book was followed by LAST DANCE, which takes Carver into a new investigation with Dylan drifting on the margins.