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MIDNIGHT ALLEY
by Miles Corwin
Oceanview, April 2012
304 pages
$25.95
ISBN: 1608090388


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This book opens the way countless others have begun—a detective on a date is called away to investigate a murder. But there are some differences here that at the start make us feel that we are in new territory. The detective, Asher Levine--who has some unusual but believable attributes--intrigues us. He is an ex-paratrooper in the Israeli army and he is the child of Holocaust survivors. As a Jew, he has to fend off a stream of mildly offensive anti-Semitic remarks by fellow officers. He is also a surfing fanatic, and Corwin has the ability to describe the Southern California coastline and ocean in a way that makes them beautifully real. With a background as a crime reporter, Corwin writes with great attention to detail and his explanations of police procedure are at first fascinating and illuminating.

The date Ash is on is with his ex-wife Robin, and the murder he is called away to investigate is a double murder of two young black men, one of whom is the son of an influential black councilman. Slowly, he discovers whom the murderer was aiming for and why. However, what he uncovers becomes more and more convoluted. People who seem important at various points in the book are not really important to the overall plot or outcome. Other suspects show up late in the game and are less convincing than they might have been. Interrogations go on too long and seem too similar to other ones we have just read about. Descriptions too sometimes seem unnecessary and distracting from the main ideas of the book. Some scenes, especially with Ash and his family, could be cut entirely. We need to see Ash in action before we can care that much about his mother and his nephew and the Hanukah presents.

A quote from Michael Connelly appears on the dust jacket. Corwin has created a multi-faceted character in Ash Levine, and as Connelly states, Corwin is "a writer to watch." But although Miles Corwin has potential, if he cannot hone in on a concise plot line, decide on and develop a few essential characters in the novel while losing the extraneous ones, and limit his descriptions, he will not follow in Connelly's footsteps. There are many plot twists and turns, and the antiquity that everyone is trying to find may remind you of the Maltese Falcon, especially in the way it plays on the psyches of the characters. But Corwin is no Dashiell Hammett either. By the end of the book we are just exhausted and a bit sad that it was not what it could have been.

Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, February 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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