This retro-mystery set in late-1940s Los Angeles has a lot of the right ingredients going for it – starting with its former B-western movie star leading character, John Ray Horn – but sometimes the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Out of jail for a crime he did commit, no matter how justified, John Ray has been banned from the studios and has been forced to go to work as an enforcer for his former co-star, an Indian now the owner of a thriving casino. The roles have been switched, and John Ray is no longer the hero.
In fact, until he learns that his former stepdaughter has run away and he’s the one person who might best find her, his life would likely have continued to slip away. Clea and her best friend Addie are girls on the verge of becoming women, an inherent part of the problem.
There is an analogy to be found here. The general Los Angeles area is a city on the verge of becoming a metropolis, a change that John Ray sees coming and finds lacking. Some of the dialogue is reminiscent of Raymond Chandler, a comparison not made lightly, and on occasion the resemblance is remarkable. What’s disappointing, though, overall, is the story’s general predictability, which Mr. Chandler, even without having the advantage of going first, never was.