Melissa Ginsburg's Houston-set debut, Sunset City, isn't out until April 12, but I couldn't wait to review this steamy potboiler of a crime novel. Out of the blue, Charlotte Ford gets a call from Danielle Reeves, an estranged friend with a closet full of skeletons and a history of bad habits, inviting her out for drinks for the first time in years. A week later, Danielle is found murdered, and Charlotte's a suspect in the investigation, although she's just one among many.
The intense bond formed between the two as teenagers lingers in Charlotte's mind and drives her to unravel the mystery of her friend's killing, using details only someone close to Danielle since childhood could piece together. To solve the crime, Charlotte must delve into the most painful memories in her and Danielle's lives, while wooing Danielle's more recent friends for answers.
Ginsburg has penned a perfect detective novel for millennials. The characters work dead-end jobs, casually consume drugs and alcohol, follow their creative pursuits on nights and weekends, and embrace the spectrum of sexuality. They have friends who work in the sex industry, they take home strangers from bars, and they drive all over Houston, its big-city sprawl a metaphor for indecision, dislocation, and wandering.
Ginsburg has also created a fine feminist read. The novel may contain a dead sex worker, but she has a name long before she has a profession. Her death is not an excuse for the main plot or a day in the life of a jaded detective. Her exit from the world is a profound, shattering event to those who loved her, changing their lives and demanding of their all-consuming attention, 'til they find purpose only in their search for the truth of her life and the facts of her murder.
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