Sunset City by Melissa Ginsburg. Ecco| April 12, 2016| 208 pages | $25.99| ISBN: 9780062429704
When this book arrived unsolicited I was positive it would be another mystery/thriller that wouldn’t interest me all that much. I wasn’t enthralled by Gone Girl. I need a bit more depth in my thrillers. Fortunately, the phenomenal writing and intriguing characters and plot grabbed me from page one. Author Melissa Ginsburg writes a taut, colorful and gritty noir. She highlights the darker side of Houston—the strip clubs, the dive bars, the run down neighborhoods, the places where average Americans scrape by on minimum wage work. The descriptions of both setting—“By morning the city was hot and muggy, awash in dirty yellow air.”–and the drug use “With one more bump the world drifted from the stream of regular existence. I loved the separateness of it. I smelled the cocaine in my nostrils, a plastic bitterness that repulsed me if I gave it any thought. Back at the picnic table I was jittery, excited.”– take you right there.
A police detective shows up at Charlotte Ford’s house and she finds out that her high school friend Danielle Reeves was murdered. The now early twenty-somethings stopped hanging out when Danielle became addicted to heroin and went to prison. Danielle possessed a magnetic quality that attracted all types to her. Ford recalls: “Danielle was easily the coolest girl at our school. She wore outfits no one else could pull off—scarves and hats and glamorous upswept hair. She dressed for class like a movie star at some gala, and it seems elegant, never pretentious. Sometimes being around her made me feel sparkly, too.” Several days before Danielle’s murder, the two old friends met for a drink and Charlotte thought they might move beyond the past and become close again.
Danielle supported Charlotte when her alcoholic mother got sick and later died. Charlotte spent lots of time at Danielle’s house. Danielle partly escaped into drugs and the sex industry due to her overbearing and wealthy mother. Lately every novel unfolds from several points of view, often trading chapters back and forth between different characters. I’m getting a bit tired of this style. It’s refreshing and fitting that this story is told in first-person by Charlotte. Readers will feel empathy for Charlotte and her hard knock life. She’s gutsy and resilient which ensures an immensely readable and compelling read.
“I never got addicted to drugs when Danielle did. After a couple of days of being high, I wanted a break. I craved order, time alone, exercise. Danielle just wanted more pills. I knew it wasn’t any kind of strength of character. I wasn’t better than her. We both did whatever we felt like. It was only luck that what I wanted was not as dangerous.”
A bereft Charlotte decides to spend time in the places and with the people that Danielle did in order to understand how she possibly could have ended up viciously murdered in a crappy hotel room. Charlotte delves into the drug scene again as she hangs out with Danielle’s friends and at places Danielle frequented. She spends quite a bit of time and enjoys a physical connection with Audrey who worked at the same porn company as Danielle. She meets Danielle’s manager Brandon. But she also speaks with and shares an attraction with the handsome detective intent to solve the case. Besides tons of drug use, there’s lots of raw, hot sex. Will Charlotte get hurt as she delves into this debased underworld or will she find answers and peace?
–review by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Ecco.
purchase at Amazon: Sunset City: A Novel