cover image Mendoza in Hollywood: A Novel of the Company

Mendoza in Hollywood: A Novel of the Company

Kage Baker. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $24 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-15-100448-5

The tart-tongued immortal heroine of Sky Coyote returns in Baker's third installment of the Company series. Still reeling from the loss of her lover, the mortal Nicholas Harpole, who burned at the stake in 1555, Mendoza has been reassigned by Dr. Zeus Inc. (a 24th-century corporation) to an outpost disguised as a stagecoach station in Los Angeles's Cahuenga Pass in 1863. Mendoza and her co-workers are a funky bunch of immortals, all specialists in their own fields: finicky Oscar, an anthropologist, poses as a door-to-door salesman; Imarte, an acerbic historian, plays the whore; and Mendoza herself is an expert on extinct plant species. While the narrative unfolds at a languorous pace--the team collects its specimens, the occasional stage rides through--Baker's sinuous prose evokes well California's verdant countryside as it was before being buried under concrete and smog. The dialogue hums with a potent blend of bitchy barbs, humorous asides and pop cultural references. Baker mixes engaging and chilling moments in equal share, but her narrative only shifts into high gear near the end, when Edward Bell-Fairfax, a Victorian-era spy and genetic doppelganger of Mendoza's dead lover, wanders into the station and carries Mendoza off to bed. Although the novel's ending finds her alone again, Mendoza has by then moved from grief to a suitably ironic acceptance of life's troubles. Agent, Virginia Kidd. (Feb.)