The mean streets of L.A. are still present in this spicy amalgam of hardboiled mystery and science fiction by a British novelist. Here, L.A. is an island following the "Big One in Ninety-Seven," the long-anticipated earthquake. Japan is in cinders and Europe is once again war-torn. With his cop girlfriend, and an offbeat collection of sidekicks, PI Charley Case gets swept from a seemingly innocent apartment-sitting job into a messy search for a scam artist. It soon becomes clear to Charley that his life will be the reward for success and death the penalty for failure. With a big brother-ish government pinching off his credit and an assortment of agents, cops and bad guys gunning for him, Charley, in his third adventure, the first available here, has a hard time staying alive long enough to figure things out. Spencer packs so much into this short tale that nothing quite gets the attention it deserves. The plot leaps from one point to another; the time line is slippery and confusing; and there are huge gaps in the internal logic of the story (e.g., burglary has been almost entirely eliminated; but car theft remains as easy then as it is now). Still, Spencer has the tough talk down well, and his futuristic L.A. has enough cleverly bizarre and intriguing touches to make this an entertaining adventure. (Apr.)
Welcome to the world beyond the Big One of '97, the earthquake that turned California into an island covered by uninhabitable rubble and post-apocalyptic theme parks. Money's been replaced by electronic "Creds," and incarceration has given way to drugs that age you 25 years in a few hours. But some things never change, like the certainty that the apartment that L.A. "confidential consultant" Charley Case has agreed to housesit will come complete with the corpse of his absent landlord's sister, that a trail of corpses will follow, along with the likelihood of an emerging land-development scam getting tied in to some highly placed politicos.
Forget about following the plot, which unreels as madly as if you'd hitched a ride on somebody else's nightmare. Just sit back and enjoy (if that's your fancy) the catastrophic landscape in this third (but first to appear here) case for Charley Case.