Die a Little

Written by Megan Abbott
Review by Steve Lewis

There are works of crime fiction that come along, every once in a while, which belong almost in a category of their own, and this is one of them. Call it Southern California “noir,” unless that conjures up Raymond Chandler in your mind, since this is a book that I cannot imagine Chandler could possibly have written. The story is a reflection of the darker side of 1950s Los Angeles, that is true, but one told from a strictly female point of view. The underlying current is that of fascination and frustration, worry and envy. When Lora King’s brother Bill, who works for the L.A. district attorney’s office, marries Alice, a victim of minor automobile accident, her world turns upside down and inside out.

Alice is flamboyant, glittery, coarse (in a refined way), loud, trashy, with a mysterious (or even worse, dishonorable) past, with uncouth (and couth) friends and associates. Bill is enchanted, Lora is protective, and Lora (although she never says so) fascinated. There is an eerie sense of mystery that envelops the three of them, so massively that at times there seems to be no room to breathe, growing all the more pervasive as Lora begins to investigate Alice’s past, and the hold she has on her brother.

In a book like this, it is the men who are the fragile ones. Alice is obviously the strongest of the three, but Lora, as it turns out – but that would be telling. If you’re fan of noir literature, this is it, at its finest.