One of the cardinal draws of Denise Hamilton's series about Los Angeles Times
reporter Eve Diamond (The Jasmine Trade
, Sugar Skull
) has been its at least partial focus on the life and politics inside a big-city newsroom. However, her third novel, Last Lullaby
, pretty much abandons that element. Though it's bursting with firepower and duplicity, this tale of lost children, see-no-evil adoptions, and international smuggling sadly blurs the distinctions between Diamond and less sparkling, more conventional private eyes.
While working up a story about the U.S. Customs Service, Diamond is caught in a shootout at the Los Angeles International Airport. By the time lead stops flying, three passengers from an incoming flight out of Beijing are dead and an infant Cambodian girl who'd accompanied them has vanished. Despite her lowly status as a suburban journo, the "flawed and fanciful" young Diamond--who's always had a soft spot for children in trouble--eschews more quotidian assignments in order to concentrate on this rapidly expanding mystery. But solving it could cost her plenty, physically as well as emotionally. It places Diamond in the midst of a tug-of-war between immigration officials (who have taken the little girl into hiding, supposedly for her own protection), profusely armed goons (who'll do almost anything to get her back), and a hero-worshipped immigration attorney with a fondness for robot dogs (who hopes to win political asylum for the toddler). Meanwhile, the reporter must suffer a 10-year-old video-game obsessive with a hate on for the owners of a local cyber café; a former lover who's suddenly stepped back into her life, bringing with him more dangers than delights; and an unexpected pregnancy by Hispanic music promoter Silvio Aguilar. There are so many twists and tensions here, that one can almost hear the credibility stretching as Last Lullaby approaches its fiery culmination.
Hamilton, an ex-Times staffer herself, knows the L.A. scene intimately, and she brings to her fiction a genuine appreciation of it's history, diverse subcultures, and class disparities. Her portrayal of that sun-bleached city as home to illegal immigrants in continual fear of deportation is especially heart-rending. Yet Last Lullaby hits a sour note when it tries to turn Eve Diamond into V.I. Warshawski with a press pass. --J. Kingston Pierce
"Unforgettable L.A. Times reporter Eve Diamond is back in Last Lullaby, bringing twenty-first century L.A. to life in another vivid, exotic, multicultural urban crime novel . . ."
-- Joseph Wambaugh
--This text refers to an alternate