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Cinnamon Girl: A Pacific Coast Highway Mystery


Cinnamon Girl: A Pacific Coast Highway Mystery

Daniel Weizmann’s unlikely Lyft-driving detective, Adam “Addy” Zantz, returns in CINNAMON GIRL, the twisty follow-up to his 2023 neo-noir, THE LAST SONGBIRD. Once again, Addy finds himself entangled in a case with musical overtones, this time when he’s tasked with investigating the murder of a teen active in LA’s mid-’80s Paisley Underground music scene.

Charles Elkaim, a close friend of Addy’s late uncle Herschel, has reached out with a deathbed request. In 1984, his 18-year-old son, Emil, was arrested for the murder of his friend and bandmate, Reynaldo Durazo. While in jail awaiting trial, Emil was killed in a revenge slaying. Charles never doubted his son’s innocence. So when Emil’s former bandmate, Devon Hawley Jr., unexpectedly shows up at Charles’ retirement home and starts hinting that he can clear Emil’s name, the elderly man is desperate to hear the truth. But Devon has failed to appear for an arranged meeting, and Charles has no way of getting in touch with him.

"Addy doesn’t have it all figured out, and he probably never will. But his chaotic adventures across LA are nonetheless entertaining and insightful, painting a vivid picture of a city full of misfits, dropouts and dreamers."

Addy reluctantly agrees to search for Devon and find out what he knows. He suspects that Charles has fallen victim to a scammer or “raging loon.” But he’s curious as well. As a child, Addy knew Emil, whom he remembers as a handsome and charismatic “teenage prophet” with an acoustic guitar. Plus, doing a favor for Herschel’s friend could help balance the karmic books. “In the debit column of the spirit, I still owed him,” Addy thinks of his uncle, who adopted him at age 12 and supported him as he chased his dream of becoming a songwriter. But uncle and son had a falling-out over Addy’s directionless life (and constant pleas for money). When Herschel died, they were estranged. Addy has yet to fully unpack his complicated feelings about the loss.

Addy still isn’t a licensed PI (he’s taking classes, sort of), but that doesn’t stop him from diving into the investigation. His search for Devon leads him to the home of aging femme fatale Marjorie Persky, the mother of Emil’s girlfriend, Cynthia, aka Cinnamon, who died of an overdose a few years after Emil’s murder. In Cinnamon’s perfectly preserved teenage bedroom, Addy finds a test pressing of a record by Emil’s band, The Daily Telegraph, which is barely a footnote in musical history. But a lack of stardom doesn’t mean a lack of drama, as Addy tries to uncover the truth about what happened the night Reynaldo was killed. His investigation pulls him into a world of big-talking producers and musical hangers-on, of fame-hungry wannabes and starry-eyed romantics skulking around the fringes of the entertainment industry.

Weizmann’s sophomore effort illuminates the scuzzy, seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, a shadow city home to people who are, as one character puts it, not “lot appropriate.” As he chases the truth, Addy visits homeless encampments under freeways, a trailer stuffed with pop detritus, and desert antique malls crammed full of 20th-century flotsam --- “the endless rows and stacks and corners of shrapnel from America the Great.” His characters tend to have one eye on the past. Even the teenage members of The Daily Telegraph were nostalgic for an imagined ’60s they never experienced. As an adult, Devon makes his living crafting miniatures for film sets, an art form in danger of being eclipsed by CGI. His passion project is a vast model of the city of Los Angeles, with each neighborhood representing a different bygone era: the Sunset Strip of the mid-1960s, Bunker Hill in the 1920s. It’s “urban chaos as shrunken head,” Addy notes.

While CINNAMON GIRL’s characters and scenes are evocative, the plot is shaggy. Like a band noodling around at practice, it occasionally wanders off in random, not always productive directions. At one point, Addy admits that he’s not even sure what case he’s trying to solve. Along the way, he infiltrates a bucolic yet sinister retirement community where he has an encounter with a pair of bizarrely gangsterish former DJs who run the place. Later, he visits the mountaintop compound of a cult-like psychologist who opens his mind with some unconventional therapy. Addy’s almost-romance with another musician goes nowhere.

Perhaps because of these diversions, the eventual solution to the core mystery feels somewhat abrupt, with the villain’s motives more convenient than plausible. But as with many noirs, much of the book’s charm lies in the journey, not the destination. Addy doesn’t have it all figured out, and he probably never will. But his chaotic adventures across LA are nonetheless entertaining and insightful, painting a vivid picture of a city full of misfits, dropouts and dreamers.

Reviewed by Megan Elliott on June 1, 2024

Cinnamon Girl: A Pacific Coast Highway Mystery
by Daniel Weizmann

  • Publication Date: May 28, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House
  • ISBN-10: 1685891152
  • ISBN-13: 9781685891152