Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Five top modern LA noir books by women writers

Alex Kenna is a lawyer, writer, and amateur painter based in Los Angeles.

Before law school, Kenna studied painting and art history at Penn. She also worked as a freelance art critic and culture writer. Originally from Washington DC, Kenna lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and giant schnauzer, Zelda. When she’s not writing Kenna can be found nerding out in art museums, exploring flea markets, and playing string instruments badly.

Her debut novel is What Meets the Eye.

[Q&A with Alex Kenna; My Book, The Movie: What Meets the Eye]

At CrimeReads Kenna shared "a short list of modern LA noir books by women writers sure to keep you flipping pages well after the lights should be out." One title on the list:
These Women by Ivy Pochoda

These Women is told in the voices of a several women affected by a vicious killer who targeted sex workers years ago. We hear from the mother of a murdered teen, a police officer, the sole surviving victim, and a young erotic dancer just discovering her keen eye for photography. When more women are killed after a long break in the carnage, all of the protagonists are affected in profound and sometimes deadly ways. The story is loosely inspired by the Grim Sleeper, a murderer who killed and tortured women in the 1980s, took an extended hiatus, and attacked again in 2002.

Far from archetypes, Pochoda’s characters are multifaceted and distinct. She masterfully switches between these very different women, giving us a glimpse of their inner worlds. Among the most compelling is Julianna, the dancer who has an artistic epiphany and discovers that she’s a talented photographer in her own right – albeit one the LA art world has no interest in discovering. Julianna’s chapters capture the ecstasy of being young and creatively gifted. Seeing her come into her own only heightens our fear for her, as she continues dancing to put food on the table while a killer wanders the streets.

These Women paints a vivid picture of LA as a dangerous, violent place, where just trying to make a living can be a deadly undertaking. The story is gut-wrenching, but the book is un-put-downable.
Read about another entry on the list.

These Women is among Meg Gardiner's six favorite crime fiction books, Eliza Jane Brazier's ten top thrilling stories of Los Angeles, Stephen Miller's favorite crime titles of 2020 and Smith Henderson and Jon Marc Smith's ten American masterpieces that are actually crime fiction.

The Page 69 Test: These Women.

--Marshal Zeringue