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The Last Songbird: A Pacific Coast Highway Mystery


The Last Songbird: A Pacific Coast Highway Mystery

A down-on-his-luck Lyft driver turns amateur PI in Daniel Weizmann’s slick neo-noir, THE LAST SONGBIRD. Addy Zantz is pushing 40, living in the storage space of a struggling recording studio, and has already failed at several careers, including songwriter, pop critic and recording engineer. Flaming out as a rideshare driver is not an option, which is one reason he’s in a rush to make his latest pickup: legendary singer-songwriter Annie Linden.

Annie --- a ’70s-era chanteuse in the vein of Joni Mitchell or Stevie Nicks --- has been one of Addy’s regulars for the past few years. Over the course of many late-night rides, he and the isolated pop star have developed a strange sort of friendship. She’s even breathed some fresh life into his nearly moribund dreams of making it as a songwriter. But when Addy pulls into the driveway of Annie’s beachside compound this night, he’s greeted by the flashing lights of cop cars. Annie is missing. Soon after, her bruised body is discovered by a jogger, further down the SoCal coast.

"...a story of broken, damaged families and long-held secrets that’s straight out of a Ross Macdonald novel. THE LAST SONGBIRD is also an incisive examination of toxic masculinity..."

Addy might be just Annie’s driver, but he feels a connection to the late singer. Soon, he’s sucked into the investigation surrounding her murder, first as a concerned friend and then (in the eyes of the police) as a potential suspect. Addy is determined to find out who killed Annie, and if her death was connected to a mysterious matter from her past that she asked him to look into before she was killed --- something involving a lost cassette, a disconnected phone number, classifieds in an old newspaper, and a former friend named Eva.

Weizmann’s debut mystery crisscrosses the sprawling landscapes of Los Angeles and its environs, from Malibu to the OC. Addy is part of the vast, kinetic metropolis, cruising highways and back alleys as hours disappear “like a runaway car slipping into traffic.” As he chases down clues, he visits the kind of spots that don’t appear on any tourist’s map of the supposedly glamorous city: grungy studio apartments and seedy liquor stores, hot tub showrooms and sketchy strip clubs. Along the way, he crosses paths with a vivid cross-section of L.A. characters, including his “boat bum” buddy Ephraim Freiberger, a one-time lawyer now making a living as a paparazzi, and Annie’s ex Haywood Kronski, a womanizing record producer with a shady past.

A brief gig working as an investigator’s assistant notwithstanding, Addy is not a natural detective. But through a combination of instinct, luck and perseverance, he begins to uncover the truth about Annie’s death, as well as the life that came before it. Annie, it turns out, was not quite the woman Addy imagined her to be. What emerges is a story of broken, damaged families and long-held secrets that’s straight out of a Ross Macdonald novel. THE LAST SONGBIRD is also an incisive examination of toxic masculinity, as Addy’s investigation leads him into the disturbing, toxic world of men’s rights groups populated by “red-pilled” guys who have some serious baggage surrounding the opposite sex.

Weizmann’s journey in the gritty underbelly of L.A. comes to life in evocative language, sprinkled with more than a few modern-day Chandler-isms. Zantz forces “hope like the last toothpaste in a crinkled tube.” The yellow and black toes of a murder victim’s shoes are like “two big orioles standing at attention.” But THE LAST SONGBIRD is more than just detective fiction pastiche. It’s a look at the precarity of the gig economy, the flickering and frustrating magic of the creative process (Addy often works out new songs as he drives), and the idea of what it means to both be and need a mother.

By the end, the sad truth of Annie Linden’s death has been explained, and Weizmann’s protagonist has stumbled his way into a new career --- one that readers hopefully will see play out in future novels.

Reviewed by Megan Elliott on May 26, 2023

The Last Songbird: A Pacific Coast Highway Mystery
by Daniel Weizmann

  • Publication Date: May 23, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House
  • ISBN-10: 168589030X
  • ISBN-13: 9781685890308