From Publishers Weekly
Aleas, the pen name for Hard Case Crime founder Charles Ardai, solidifies his reputation as one of the finer modern hard-boiled writers with his second John Blake novel (following 2004's Little Girl Lost
). Blake, a young but already deeply scarred detective, has given up PI work—his last case cost him the life of his lover, and almost that of a dear friend, so Blake has taken a sedate job as an administrative assistant at Columbia University, where he's enrolled in a creative writing class. When a classmate and confidant, Dorothy Burke, dies in her bathtub, the police take one look at the plastic bag over her head and the copy of Final Exit
nearby, and declare it a suicide. Dorothy's mother has other ideas and ropes Blake back into his old trade to pursue her suspicions that Dorothy was murdered. Before she died, Dorothy let Blake in on her secret life as a prostitute—information the police don't have—and he pursues that lead deep into New York City's violent underworld. Throughout, Aleas effortlessly channels the spirit of the pulps with crisp prose and an unrelentingly grim plot line, and his powerful conclusion will drop jaws. (July)
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Richard Aleas is the pseudonym of Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime's publisher, but this is no vanity effort. And while he's obviously a fan of pulp paperbacksfrom the words on the page to the girls on the coversthis is no mere mimickry, either: his boy-faced sleuth, John Blake (first seen in Little Girl Lost, 2004), brings the radio-age gumshoe into the Internet era without missing a step. In Songs of Innocence, the Internet is nothing less than the new boulevard of broken dreams. Blake has a knack for attracting "birds with broken wings"; his attempt to prove that his best friend, the beautiful and melancholy Dorrie Burke, didn't kill herself leads him deep into a seedy world of massage-table prostitutes who advertise by creating fake identities online. Some readers might want a bit more action and a bit less soul-searching, but with a sleuth named after a mystical, romantic poet, should we expect anything less? The truly noir ending leaves us guessing whether Blake will be back for Songs of Experience, but here's hoping. Graff, Keir