Ash Levine quit the LAPD in a mixture of guilt and anger when a witness to a crime he was investigating was shot and killed. He’s very much at loose ends, though, stifled by his family and not enjoying the prospect of law school. He therefore jumps at the chance offered to him by his old mentor, Lieutenant Duffy, to return to the squad to investigate the shooting of a retired cop, Pete Revitch. Levine is full of energy and soon finds some leads which he pursues with vigour, while at the same time suffering some slings and arrows from old colleagues and superiors who are less than pleased that he’s back on the force.
Told in the first person, Kind of Blue (from the Miles Davis track) is a detailed yet fast-paced and absorbing police procedural with plenty of clues and leads to keep the reader on her toes. The author has previously written two non-fiction books about the LAPD, one as a result of shadowing two detectives for some months, and this deep and detailed knowledge is evident in every paragraph of this novel. The author does not fall into the trap of providing too much information, though. Levine is a man with a mission, and single-mindedly pursues the righteous way of investigation, not diverted by the politics of modern policing. At the same time, he has a somewhat troubled personal life: he’s divorced, a veteran of the Israeli army, and suffers nightmares as a result of his military experiences. None of this is dwelt on too much, so does not become a cliché; mainly the reader is caught up in the investigation of Revitch’s death as Levine pursues the few leads he has, re-interviewing witnesses and relatives, until he stumbles across the possibility that the dead man may have been on the take.
Even when the case appears to be solved, there are three or four more twists in the story, twists that address issues of police corruption, gang warfare in LA, and the extremes of rich and poor who live in this city of dreams. I very much enjoyed the book. Levine has plenty of problems and neuroses to cope with, and I think that some of these will settle down a bit so that future novels (of which I hope there will be some) will become more measured as a result. The ending of the book (or rather, the several endings) are to me less convincing than the main story, perhaps because Levine seems to be able to do anything (shoot people, be shot, etc) and be instantly back on the case, which does not seem to me all that likely. Even so, one wants very much for him to solve the current case as well as the old one which is haunting him.
It is likely that this book will be compared to the early work of Michael Connelly, as Levine could develop into a next-generation Harry Bosch. I think the comparison stands up well. Miles Corwin still has some way to go to develop the deceptively easy and mournful, elegiac style that characterises Connelly’s cleverly plotted novels, but on this evidence, he could certainly get there. I very much enjoyed my first encounter with Ash Levine’s life and his LAPD, and hope it will not be the last.
I thank the publisher, Oceanview, for so kindly sending me a copy of this novel.
About the book at the publisher website (including endorsement from Michael Connelly himself).
An interview with the author about this book (PDF).