Don't start SONGS OF INNOCENCE by Richard Aleas without carving
out enough time to read it twice, preferably in one sitting. And
don't let your friends borrow the book. Just recommend it and let
them buy their own copy; otherwise, you'll never get yours back.
This is unlike any hard-boiled mystery you've ever read.
John Blake, Aleas's unlikely and unlucky protagonist from LITTLE
GIRL LOST, returns in SONGS OF INNOCENCE, although not as a private
investigator (at least not initially). Still reeling from the
events that took place three years previously, Blake has enrolled
in the writing program at Columbia University and is working his
way through school as a teaching assistant.
When Dorothy Burke, one of Blake's classmates, is found dead as the
result of an apparent suicide, he is certain that she was murdered.
They were close --- the term currently in vogue that would best
describe their relationship is "friends, with privileges" --- and
Blake was one of the very few people who knew that Burke had been
working at a massage parlor to make ends meet.
Using the skills acquired and honed in his past work as a private
investigator, Blake begins turning over rocks and knocking on doors
to determine who killed Burke. His quest takes him into the seamy
world of the sex trade, which operates on and beyond the border of
the law and into the dangerous, twisted world of the Hungarian
mafia, even as he leaves a trail of violence and death behind
Blake solves the mystery --- and the identity of the person who
caused Burke's death will shock readers.
With SONGS OF INNOCENCE, Aleas has accomplished a seemingly
impossible task by presenting a new twist in a much-loved but
well-treaded genre. Brilliantly conceived and flawlessly executed,
this may well be the noir novel of the year.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011