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Cinnamon Girl by Daniel Weizmann

3 Mins read
Cinnamon Girl by Daniel Weizmann front cover

The second Pacific Coast Highway mystery sees the welcome return of proto-detective Adam Zantz. His job as driver on the taxi app Lyft got him into a heap of trouble in The Last Songbird, when he needed to prove his innocence of the murder of his favourite client.

In Cinnamon Girl, the reluctant LA private detective is still recovering from that bruising first outing but is a little wiser to the ways of the world and needs work. Adam is summoned to the Shalom Terrace Retirement Home where his old music teacher lives. Stern as Charles Elkaim was with the rules of piano, Adam liked him a lot and considered him a mentor. Back then, everyone felt sorry for Elkaim because his son was killed – although Emil was shivved while on remand charged with murder, so there was a stigma too. Elkaim now has pancreatic cancer and his dying request is hard for Adam to refuse.

Emil Elkaim was the primary suspect in the murder of drug dealer Reynaldo Durazo in 1984. A few weeks after his 18th birthday Emil was remanded to prison awaiting trial and stabbed to death shortly after that. The charge was never vacated and Elkaim has lived with both the grief and the thought that his son was a murderer for the past near 40 years. 

Now a man called Devon Hawley has come forward, claiming he’s just realised that Emil was innocent. Adam fears that Hawley may be out to scam a dying man. He has no choice but to look into the claim to protect Elkaim, though he has no expectation of getting anywhere with his enquiries. Ever the reluctant detective. 

There’s very little to go on. Emil’s then-girlfriend Cynthia was known as Cinnamon and hence the title, also a Neil Young song, is one of several entertainment references that are part of the fun of this novel. Cinnamon disappeared shortly after Emil wound up behind bars, only to turn up dead of an overdose three years later. 

Adam visits Cinnamon’s mother, who lives in the house where Durazo was killed, so this wasn’t some street fight. She claims to know nothing of what happened that night but the fortuitous discovery of an unknown vinyl demo LP starts Adam’s journey into the city’s musical history.

The test pressing by wannabe band The Daily Telegraph never saw the light of day. They were part of the 1980s Paisley Underground and, riffing off the mod scene of the 1960s, were on the verge of achieving some success until it all came crashing down and ended in tragedy and murder.

Adam’s first outing took him through the music scene of the 1960 and 70s. With this novel the journey continues into the 1980s. Anyone who loves this period and its popular culture will enjoy the references. It’s a trip down memory lane but far from simple nostalgia; there are no rose tinted spectacles here. For those who remember the 80s it’s easy to get into this landscape. The novel is also a neo-noir homage to Chandler, Hammett, MacDonald and the golden era of California PIs but it’s distinctive enough to have its own style and flavour, with a contemporary feel. It’s pacy enough to enjoy even if those 80s elements aren’t your bag.

There’s plenty of dark humour and a satirical edginess to this decent mystery well told. It will give you thrills and laughs in equal measure, and is an involving read. It’s about obsessions, enduring love, shattered dreams, greed and betrayal in the Wurlitzer world of the California entertainment industry. It nails 80s LA perfectly. If you like Adam as I did, you’ll enjoy the ride. If there’s to be a third novel I would be on board for that. For those interested, there’s a playlist at the back of the book that further sets the scene.

For another wry take on the PI game see A Man Named Doll Jonathan Ames.

Melville House Press 
Print/Kindle/iBook
£7.98

CFL Rating: 4 Stars 


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