It is the year 2000 and Los Angeles P.I. Mickey O’Rourke, 78 years old, thought he had seen and done it all in his very long career as a private investigator. He’s planning to retire after this, the last case he plans to take. But this is one case that will really test his detective skills as heads to porn studios in the San Fernando Valley where an 18 year old porn starlet hires O’Rourke to look into the disappearance of her boyfriend … porn’s male mega-star, Jeffrey Strokes. His search will take him many places, including the dangerous streets of Compton, California.
I don’t want to say too much about this book because part of the enjoyment of a book like this is the journey and the reader should go in as fresh and open as possible.
This is the second book in a series – at least a trilogy I’d guess, based on the cliff-hanger ending – but the only thing that made it seem like there was something before this book was the recognition of some of the characters toward one another, otherwise I really didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything.
I found the book to be written in an unusual format. The book uses flashbacks to help tell the story, but those flashbacks only go back two years at the most. That’s a little bit unusual, but it speaks to the nature of this case and that Jeffrey Strokes has gone missing recently – this isn’t a cold case.
What’s unusual is that the flashbacks, which must make up half the book, don’t include our central figure – Mickey O’Rourke. Not only that, but it appears to be three different, non-linear stories which we assume will converge at some point in the book. But following these different storylines and characters and timeframes requires a little extra work on the part of the reader.
I wasn’t particularly fond of this style for much of the book, and then O’Rourke says something that put it in perspective for me. When the porn starlet (Bethany) asks O’Rourke how he can do this sort of job when he sees humanity at its worst he says,
I do this job by following the clues, one after another, until the case is done. It’s not like the movies. There are rarely gunshots or explosions, bad guys hunting you down. You follow a lead to where it takes you. Most times it takes you to a dead end and you have to return to the beginning and follow another. Usually, you have to follow dozens of leads before you get anywhere. But, sometimes, you get lucky, and every door you open leads you to another until, finally, you stumble upon the truth.
This is when I realized that those chapters that were flashbacks were ‘the doors you open’ O’Rourke was talking about. Rather than reading about O’Rourke being given these bits of information through his searches, we get to see those pieces of information in action. It’s actually pretty clever (though still a tad hard to follow).
Even though the book has maybe four (false?) endings (you read a chapter and think “Oh, that’s a nice way to end,” and then there’s another chapter) there’s a pretty clear set-up for another book, and yes, I want to read it. I also need to find the first book in the series.
The book is a nice nod to the noir detective fiction of the 50’s (Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, etc) while staying firmly rooted in our modern world (well… twenty year old, modern).
Looking for a good book? Porno Valley by Philip Elliott is the second book in a series, but can stand alone (except for the cliffhanger). It features a slow but methodical, septuagenarian looking for a missing male porn star.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Philip Elliott
series: Angel City #2
publisher: Into the Void
hardcover, 316 pages