Ash Levine, the top detective in the LAPD’s elite Felony Special Squad, is called out to solve the murder of two young black men found shot to death in a Venice alley. The case is a high priority because one of the victims is the son of City Councilman Isaac Pinkney, a frequent critic of the LAPD. Searching for the killer throws Levine into the world of Los Angeles’s Russian Mafia, Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, and Middle Eastern archeologists. Ash’s history as a child of a Holocaust survivor gives him a unique perspective on murder, redemption, and justice. His background as a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces, and his relentless, single-minded focus on his investigations make him a thoroughly absorbing character. As Ash closes in on the killer, the investigation becomes increasingly complex – and personal. Ash soon discovers that he is not just an investigator, but a target…
The second Ash Levine investigation (following ‘ Kind of Blue’) from former LA Times reporter Miles Corwin and a gripping police procedural packed with action from the outset. I’m a long time fan of Michael Connelly, Joseph Wambaugh and Elmore Leonard, so delighted that there is a new kid on the block, in terms of Los Angeles based crime fiction, and on the evidence of this, I think Corwin could be a worthy addition to these luminaries of American crime fiction.
This is a multi-stranded plot with a seamless transition between the every day grind of the LA police department, to a tale involving sex trafficking, the smuggling of a stolen Iraqi relic and a conspiracy involving the US military. The plotting and pace is superb throughout but what really impressed me about the novel was the depth of characterisation particularly in relation to the main character of Ash Levine. Levine is a breath of fresh air in terms of the depiction of the average American detective, being both Jewish and having served as a paratrooper with the Israeli Army, balancing his army training with the necessary demands of being an LAPD detective, sometimes to the chagrin of his immediate superiors. He is a dogged and determined character who will stop at nothing, despite having an Internal Investigation, hanging over him, to solve the case. Strongly influenced by his Jewish heritage, he has a high sense of morality influenced by the teachings of the Torah, but is equally at home in the day to day physicality of his detective role with a nifty grasp of Krav Maga. This is particularly evident in the storyline dealing with sex trafficking, and his determination to free a young Russian girl from her incarceration at the hands of the Russia Mafia. The scenes with Levine and his family at Hannukah, and particularly the overbearing attentions of his mother, are a joy, perfectly capturing the verbal sparring and tensions that occur in the average family during the holiday period. In a good little side line to the central plot, as is common in most crime novels, Levine has a broken marriage and his ex Robin, a successful lawyer, drifts in and out of the plot adding to his consternation and his hopes for a reconciliation, and of course his family have plenty to say about this too!
Having only previously read Corwin’s non-fiction book ‘The Killing Season’ (see review below) he is definitely a writer I will return to on the strength of this novel, and will not hesitate to recommend fans of American police procedurals. I will definitely be seeking out a copy of ‘Kind of Blue’, the first novel featuring Ash Levine, and am looking forward to following this series in the long term if ‘Midnight Alley’ is indicative of Corwin’s fictional prowess. A good find.
Visit the author’s website here: http://www.milescorwin.com/
‘Midnight Alley’ is published by Oceanview Publishing
Downloaded digital galley from NetGalley: http://www.netgalley.com/
Meet Pete Razanskas, 22-year veteran homicide cop and Marcella Winn, a rookie detective who grew up in the ‘hood. They’re an unlikely partnership whose job it is to attempt to close some of the hundreds of murder cases that happen every year in the gang-infested streets of South-Central LA. Crime reporter Miles Corwin gained unprecedented access to shadow them for the usual hot summer of endless homicide. We meet the cops, the victims and the murders (Crips and Bloods, drug dealers, psychopaths and even killer kids), witness their incredible daily lives and hear their stories in intimate detail. ‘The Killing Season’ is a raw, shocking and riveting story of an extreme place not far from the ordinary world where war rages on the streets and life has little value.