Savage Garden, Denise Hamilton, Scribner, 2005, 323 pp
Denise Hamilton is an LA based crime fiction writer and came to one of the reading groups I belong to recently. We read Savage Garden, which is her latest of four books. She began her professional life as an Los Angeles Times reporter and saw her share of criminal activity during her years there.
Eve Diamond, the main character in Hamilton's books, is also an LA Times reporter. In Savage Garden she remains true to character: feisty, obsessive news hound, needy in her love relationships and a bit compulsive about putting herself in harms way. The only difference between Eve and Sara Paretsky's or Sue Grafton's PIs is that Eve is a reporter, but she operates like a PI.
This time Eve's current boyfriend is the childhood best friend of a Latino playwright who is making his big LA debut. But the lead actress, a damaged young woman who also came up in the bario, has turned up dead.
It is a good mystery and a pageturner. I read it in one evening. At the reading group meeting, we learned from Denise that all of her plot ideas come from real stories which she covered in her days as a reporter, but for various reasons was not able to publish in a news format. Savage Garden grew out of an incident in the 1990s when the wife of the lead singer in Los Lobos was murdered. (Los Lobos is a well-loved Los Angeles latino band.) Another tidbit was that the book features a song called "Savage Garden" to which Denise herself wrote the lyrics.
I liked Hamilton's first book better (The Jasmine Trade) but this one was fun to read and nothing beats reading a book set contemporaneously in the city where one lives.