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Craig's Book Club
Book Reviews

Spotlight on: Little Girl Lost by Richard Aleas


To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.


Little Girl Lost by Richard Aleas Richard Aleas, Little Girl Lost

(Hard Case Crime is a new imprint from Dorchester Publications and Winterfall LLC that focuses on books written in the style of the old pulp crime novels. They will be publishing new works in the old style, like Richard Aleas's Little Girl Lost, as well as reprinting classics from the masters.)

When the headline "Stripper Murdered" boasts a photo of his ex-girlfriend Miranda Sugarman, John Blake is floored. This is the girl who left their hometown to go off to medical school in Wisconsin to become an eye doctor. What happened that caused her to end up dead on the roof of The Sin Factory? The New York P.I. decides to use his skills to find out.

With the most striking first chapter in recent memory, Little Girl Lost, the debut novel of Richard Aleas (pseudonym of acclaimed writer, editor, and entrepreneur Charles Ardai), starts out strong and keeps up the pace (though I don't know that I'd have given my book the same title as a bestselling celebrity autobiography).

When your central character is a P.I., you've got to make him not like all the others to keep a reader's interest past the crime he's trying to solve. John Blake -- interestingly, given the genre -- is not your typical "tough guy." Instead of running headlong into trouble willy-nilly, he likes to avoid it, but not enough to appear weak. He's like Jackie Chan; he knows he can handle himself, he'd just like to get away with as few bruises as possible (Robert Parker's Spenser also comes to mind). Blake depends on his intelligence and quick wit to get him through. This makes him easier to identify with for a reader with no chance whatsoever of finding himself in such a situation (I hope).

The hero's emotional attachment to the victim recalls Dashiell Hammett's classic The Maltese Falcon and this makes him a more sympathetic character, as well as giving us a voyeuristic view into his conflicting feelings. Sitting idly by, we get to watch as Blake realizes that the Miranda who got herself two bullets in the head on a seedy rooftop on New Year's Eve is much different than the girl he loved ten years ago (as depicted through selective flashbacks).

With help from his boss Leo and a stripper named Rachel Firestone -- who finds that she has a surprising knack for detective work -- Blake descends into the underworld of flesh display and runs into trouble that goes by the names of Wayne Lenz and Murco "Catch" Khachadurian. Along the way, Aleas gives us an insider's view into the day-to-day workings of a private investigator. This attention to detail, a fast-paced plot, a terrific cover from famed illustrator Robert McGinnis (which continues the half-naked-girl-with-a-gun theme of Fade to Blonde and was reportedly even more revealing before the publishers had him "pull up her pants"), fascinating characters (who are seldom all that they seem), and Aleas' definite knack for the genre, all combine to make Little Girl Lost an absolutely terrific read. It's therefore not surprising that it was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe award for Best First Novel.


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