Book Review: Last Dance by Jeffrey Fleishman
By Ray PalenNovember 17, 2020
I believe a more apt title for this novel would have been—”Cold War Reboot“. This is due to the fact that the narrative and style applied by the author make the reader feel like they could be back in the 1960s. In fact, one of the characters drives a classic car that still has an 8-track player for the sole reason of feeling like he is back in the ’60s when riding around modern-day Los Angeles.
Author Jeffrey Fleishman, himself a Pulitzer Prize finalist, has created something special with his latest release entitled Last Dance. It is the second novel in the Detective Sam Carver series and is a unique blend of crime noir and espionage, almost as if Raymond Chandler and John Le Carre had a baby. The writing is so descriptive and snappy it seems to just jump off the page at you as the story continues to twist and suspense keeps mounting.
The first line of the novel feels as if it should be narrated by Humphrey Bogart: “She lies pale and light as shaved ice.” The body in reference is that of world-famous Russian ballerina Katrina Ivanovna. The way she is lying still in the bed of her downtown LA loft gives the appearance that she is just sleeping. The actual cause of death is something that will become a major plot point. Detective Sam Carver gets the case, the first since his the case that put him on leave for a while from the force. The case involving a mysterious woman named Dylan Cross who played with Carver’s heart and head before vanishing into thin air. His boss, Commander Ortiz, is keeping a short leash on Carver for the time being and wants to make sure this case is wrapped up quickly and doesn’t become an international incident.
Of course, no one heard or saw anything and the ballet company she worked for had no concerns and only good things to say about Katrina. Carver turns to a Confidential Informant who typically works with the FBI named Stefan Petrovic because of his Eastern European connections. Stefan also claims to have met Katrina one time at a party given by the now-disgraced film producer, Harvey Weinstein. Things take a big turn for the worse when Ortiz calls Carver to inform him that Katrina’s body had been taken from the morgue before a full autopsy could be completed.
Now, Carver has to work extra hard to save face for the LAPD who the press is accusing of losing a body in a potential murder case. Things heat up when one of the witnesses, a cello player who often accompanied Katrina in her apartment as she danced, turned up dead—the apparent victim of a staged overdose. Could this be the same cause of death for Katrina herself? Carver needs help on the case and asks Ortiz to let Officer Lily Hernandez accompany him, especially since she has a potential witness named Jimmy Krause who could provide some key information. That is until Krause gets taken out right in front of them by an assassin’s bullet to the forehead.
The best part of the story is when Stefan Petrovic and Sam go on a little jaunt which takes them to Africa and Brussels. Two other names are thrown into the mix, both big Russian players, the first is famous film producer Mickey Orlov and the other a super female spy named Zhanna Smirnov. What makes things hit even closer to home is when Orlov is mentioned as a player in the 2016 Russian hacking of the U.S. Election. Just when you think you’ve got things figured out, another body piles on to the growing stack. Things really blow open when part of Katrina’s diary turns up and Carver pores through hoping to stay on the right track.
Last Dance was like a trip down memory lane. Time spent in modern-day LA with the feel of an old black-and-white Hollywood crime film. The mystery of the missing body will keep you guessing right up until the end and the finale of the story opens the door to Sam Carver’s past and will have you pining for the next title in this series.