Past Presents of Christmas
As the title suggests, Jeff Fleishman’s great new novel, Last Dance, unfolds like a dangerous and captivating dance through the sun-splashed underworld of Los Angeles. But it also feels like the jazz music that his cultured and solitary protagonist, LAPD homicide Detective Sam Carver, plays on the piano in the wee small hours of the morning. In Fleishman’s world, everyone’s always riffing: the cops, the criminals, the witnesses, the bystanders, the author himself. This book paints vivid and elegant word pictures of big ideas–art, love, death, nostalgia, obsession—and pleasingly precise details—the right way to make an espresso, the infernal glow of wildfires in the Southern California night. Jeff’s books are as much about mood, images, character and landscape as they are about the mystery itself. (In this case, the suspicious death and subsequent corpse-napping of a Russian ballerina that may or may not intersect with all kinds of geopolitical mayhem and skullduggery.) That’s why I like them. Here’s a great way to spend a pandemic holiday season: hunker down with the Sam Carver series, Last Dance and its predecessor, My Detective. My boy Fleishman knows what he’s doing.