LA Rotten by Jeff Klima (Alibi, May 12, 2015) – Tom Tanner’s an ex-con with few options for employment, and the nature of his crime makes even those options difficult. He’s managed to hold onto his job as a crime-scene clean up man for a while now, and he figures if he keeps his head down and does his job, it’ll stay that way.
In between the calls, though, he starts noticing a pattern to some of the jobs – clean up in room 236, always the same cheap motel chain, never the same location twice. He’s tempted to ignore it, but Ivy, the bar waitress that’s attached herself to him, decides he shouldn’t. The deeper he gets into the investigation, the more twisted it becomes, and the more Tom learns about himself. The killer thinks they’re friends, two of a kind, better off as partners in the sick, grisly game the killer’s been playing. Tom’s determined to hang on to his humanity and prove him wrong.
Don’t read this book while you’re eating. Just…do yourself a favor and find some nice fluffy bunny pictures to stare at while you finish your lunch. Klima’s descriptions of the crime scenes are vivid and detailed, with just enough nuance to spark your imagination. In other words: gross. Blood, brain matter, stomach contents, the stench…as disgusting as it was, that level of detail was one of my favorite parts of the story. It sinks you into Tom’s world and shows you the pieces of Los Angeles you sometimes forget exists under all the bright lights and glamour. He sees the seedy, the downtrodden, the facade the rich put up for others.
My initial impression of Tom – cool, almost emotionless, not particularly intelligent – didn’t hold up as the story progressed. A functioning addict, he’s aloof for a reason. His life since his release hasn’t exactly been all happy and shiny, the living victims of his crime refusing to leave him alone. So he stays quiet and prefers to be alone rather than subject anyone to the annoying hassle he has to deal with on a regular basis. He’s actually wicked smart, and the conscience he thought he no longer had is very much alive, just buried. And he’s lonely. I don’t think ever acknowledged it, but his actions spoke for him. More, Ivy’s tenacious and clever enough to realize it, and she refused to let him brush her aside.
There were a few missteps. There was a plot thread that when it came time to integrate it into the whole and tie it off ended up sticking out more than it needed to, and there was a scene that had the romance author in me cringing. But LA Rotten was solidly entertaining from start to finish, and Klima’s an author to watch.
Copy provided by the publisher.