Dead in LA is the book that shows just how economical Lou Harper's writing is. It surprises mReview posted for Lou Harper week at The Armchair Reader.
Dead in LA is the book that shows just how economical Lou Harper's writing is. It surprises me even now to write that this book of two stories is only 28k words simply because my memory from reading it is how full of plot and detail it was. Of course it depends on your style and preferences, but I always admire an author who can get their word across without a whole lot of words -- I'm the exact opposite! As you might have noticed and indeed bemoaned from my incredibly wordy reviews :)
Both of these stories, "Dead in the Hills" and "Dead in the Valley" focus on a separate mystery while the overall arc of the story that connects them is the building relationship between Jon and Leander, two completely fascinating characters! I say that because at this point (after reading the first two stories and waiting for the rest to come) I still feel them on incredibly shaky ground, no matter how far they've come from their beginnings as roommates in "Dead in the Hills". And they, in so many ways, are an opposites attract story, not in a sortof comically stereotypical way (like… the twink and the cop or something) but simply because when I first started reading this book I thought… wait, is Leander really going to become Jon's romantic interest? I just couldn't see it. It wasn't until after they were firmly established as friends with benefits (or roommates with benefits) that they both really started to open up for me as characters and I could see past their superficialities. Jon is an art student, but of course in a completely responsible way (art advertising) that he might not have ever really gone in to anyway, and Leander is a psychic who finds things that people have lost. Now, sometimes those are puppies (like the "unlucky Chihuahua" LOL) and sometimes those are missing people. Jon has a hard time at first believing in what Leander does until he offers his roommate a ride to a job and sees it for himself, not only the accuracy of Leander's visions but what it also does to him. His ultimate understanding of Leander's job is what slowly softens him to Leander's charms, even through all of the trauma and guilt that Jon still has after his wife's death.
Dead in LA was probably one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year, and in some ways that's because of the mysteries and in others the relationship. The relationship is also what makes this book like a really early part of a series. Of course, these are the first two stories in this series, but what I mean is that by the end of both there's still a great deal of uncertainty about their relationship and a lot they'll need to work through. Both of these stories, for me, were really about getting to know the characters individually and that makes me even more excited for the coming ones, because I get to see more about where their relationship will progress.
This book also shows how well the episodic mystery format is working for Lou. Making the mysteries somewhat shorter allows for more possible directions for the story to go because we, as readers, aren't completely committed to a long mystery plot while the characters are growing with their relationship. That is what makes the next stories in this series exciting to me.
Also, a note about the cover, which I really love. Lou mentioned that it doesn't really scream romance (which is true) but that it does really highlight that these are mysteries. That works well for me with these two stories -- the cover seems aligned with how I feel about them in any way -- but also, I think that the lack of a naked torso makes your book stand out in new ways these days, when I feel like most others I've heard from… we're just tired of those covers....more