Over the last couple of years I’ve been devoting a fair amount of my fiction reading time to books set in my hometown of Los Angeles, and/or my adopted hometown of Pasadena. Because I’m a fan of mystery and crime novels, it’s easy to find lots to choose from — L.A. is hugely popular with mystery and crime writers — but not so easy to find really good new ones. So I was particularly happy to discover The Last Embrace, the most recent novel by Glendale writer Denise Hamilton. Set in 1949 Hollywood, with the studios, starlet apartments, mobster restaurants, the Hollywood sign and secret clubs as backdrops, the story follows the adventures of a former OSS spy who comes to L.A. to find out what happened to her late fiance’s sister, who came to Hollywood seeking fame. The story rips along, the suspense is real, and the characters are solid — but most of all, Hamilton does a terrific job of putting the reader right in the middle of post-war Los Angeles, when reality, artifice, opportunity and corruption all collided.
The Last Embrace, by Denise Hamilton ($15, trade paperback)