Down-on-his-luck drifter Wycliff has come to Los Angeles to scam his dying brother out of his estate. But as they get to know one another, having not been in contact for decades, the two brothers forge an unlikely bond. Just as he's planning to put his sordid past behind him, Wycliff meets a glamorous woman who offers him his first taste of the high life, and finds himself involved with a team of hustlers much more sophisticated and brutal than he is. Wycliffe begins to suspect he's being set up. But for what? He's about to learn the cardinal law of crime: there's always someone badder than you.
I read Against the Wind the author’s debut novel back in the early 90’s. In truth though I can remember very little about it other than I think I enjoyed it. (A tale of a lawyer and some elements concerning a biker gang and a court case.) Pretty sure I enjoyed it, inasmuch as I kept the book and it has survived several judicious culls from the heaving shelves in the past 20 plus years. Surprisingly though, I never kept pace with Freedman through the years, until my memory was re-awakened when scouring Net Galley additions a month or two ago.
Prior to this latest offering Mr Freedman has penned 9 other novels post-debut that I have missed out on. Digressing but kind of interesting to me at least, is the fact that only 2 books could be classed as a series and the rest are all standalones – which kind of bodes well for dipping in and out of his other books without making a major time/money/shelf space commitment.
Back to Turn Left at Doheny then.
Length – 230-240 pages. I’m unsure about his intervening books but some established authors would be stretching things to 400 – 500 pages come book 11. Kudos to JF, less is more.
Story line – bad brother trying to ingratiate himself with good, rich dying brother – ergo death and ching-ching inheritance, happy days! That’s the plan, at least.
Not mega-amounts of action, there’s a bit of unsavoury violence, some bed-hopping without top shelf explicitness; mainly a tale that shows a re-connection between two estranged family members, under difficult circumstances and one harbouring dubious motives. Plenty of side action and distractions and plays occurring on the sidelines.
Character – Wycliff……our main man, not particularly likeable when we pick up with him at the start; he’s a bit of a scam artist, unscrupulous and out for himself. Within a few short chapters we see a softer, more caring side to him. An epiphany, a life change or a temporary aberration?
Supporting cast – brother, Billy…….dying; Charlotte - the older-woman-cum-bar-pickup-easy lay – who may be running a game on Wycliff; Amelia – nurse, girlfriend, straight ace, marriage and possible settling down material, plus an interesting assortment of minor characters, two of whom become critical to Wycliff’s eventual outcome.
Setting – LA and some of its landmark districts, a place that always goes down well when I’m reading….Santa Monica, Echo Park, North Hollywood, Sunset, La Cienega.
Negatives….. none in my book.
Conclusion……a satisfying outcome, which as an alternative to a happy ending was the best I could hope for. The author smacked me in the face with one of the reveals when it came – something I felt I should have spotted upon reflection, but hadn't – so an extra hat-tip to him. (I’d be curious to know if other readers were surprised, or if it was just me.)
Freedman had me caring and rooting for Wycliff despite some of his decisions and actions. Poor decisions, horrific decisions even, allied with a naivety that had me covering my eyes as I read………NO! DON’T DO THIS! Did he listen? Read it yourself and find out.
Testament to the author’s skill that he could weave this tangled web around the main dude, within such a short period of time, manipulating this reader into rooting for such a flawed, conflicted character.
5 from 5
Net Galley acquisition, this one.