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The Jasmine Trade, was an Edgar Award finalist that Michael Connelly hailed as gripping...intriguing...more than a good crime novel," brings back her tenacious heroine, Eve Diamond, in an electrifying new novel of suspense.
When a distraught father breaks past security to beg for her help, Los Angeles Times reporter Eve Diamond can't refuse. His daughter, caught up in the rough "squatter" lifestyle, is missing -- and Eve, sensing a scoop, wants to know why a privileged teen from Pasadena would hook up with the dregs of Hollywood. When the girl is found dead, Eve suspects there is more going on than the tragic death of a rebellious youth.
The search for answers will take Eve from the street world of drugs and sex to the upper echelon of L.A. society -- who don't appreciate her digging up their dirt. Even as Eve fights against the powers-that-be who want her off the story, she finds herself mixing business and pleasure when she's irresistibly drawn to the brooding son of a Mexican music titan. For it is in his world -- and in the intricate sugar skulls that mark the Mexican "Day of the Dead" -- that Eve may find the key to unmasking a killer....
"All over town, people were dying violently," observes L.A. Times reporter Diamond at this tale's start. In other words, it's a typical weekend in California's largest city, with most of the deceased barely earning a mention in print. But Isabel Chevalier is different. A 15-year-old prep-school student, she's taken to slumming with runaway street kids, so when she disappears suddenly, her worried father seeks Diamond's help. Too late: Isabel is found murdered in an abandoned building. Sniffing a good story, Diamond tracks down the homeless youths who knew Isabel best, including the feral but oddly magnetic Finch "Mad Dog" Marino and an abused girl called Scout, who revs up the reporter's maternal instincts. At the same time, Diamond has another scoop on the hook, involving the suspicious demise of a mayoral candidate's "super-socialite" wife, who--in hypocritical disregard of her hubby's "family values" platform--has been cavorting with another man. Hamilton's smoothly paced yarn sends Eve from a riverside transvestite camp to Latino nightclubs to the hyper-competitive arena of her newsroom, yet leaves her time (and breath) enough to tryst with a somber Hispanic music promoter amid L.A.'s Day of the Dead festivities. Although readers may cringe at this novel's trite portrayals of spin-mad politicians, Diamond's rough-cut charm and perspicacity, plus Hamilton's thoughtful focus on race and homelessness, make Sugar Skull a sweet read. --J. Kingston Pierce
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