cover image FLINCH


Robert Ferrigno, . . Pathneon, $24 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-375-40125-1

In this engaging, darkly comic thriller, tabloid journalist Jimmy Gage returns to Los Angeles from a self-imposed exile and finds his ex-girlfriend, Olivia, married to his brother, Jonathan, a polished and philanthropic plastic surgeon. The brothers' absurdly competitive relationship—the title of Ferrigno's sixth novel (after The Horse Latitudes) refers to a childhood game in which each tried to make the other flinch—is ratcheted up significantly when Jimmy finds Polaroid "splatter shots" of six bodies in Jonathan's possession. Are the people in the pictures the victims of the self-styled serial killer Eggman, who took responsibility for the crimes in a letter to Jimmy? Or are they simply random corpses, part of the "background noise" of contemporary L.A.? A huge cast of quirky, interesting characters, multiple story lines and an indelible setting—contemporary Los Angeles with its "blank sensuality and lubricious greed"—contribute to the densely patterned mosaic of this always entertaining and often riveting novel. Ferrigno is a great interpreter of L.A., a city of manufactured dreams and unbridled ambition, and an incisive critic of its popular culture. Scenes and characters bristle with energy, and the conflict between the brothers is real and compelling. Ferrigno may bite off more than he can chew at times—the tangled plot sometimes obscures the drama, and the mesh linking all the elements could be more tightly woven. Still, the expansive canvas, spot-on characterizations, excellent prose and incisive dialogue will please those readers who like their mysteries more complex and ambitious than the average work of genre fiction. Agent, Mary Evans.15-city author tour.(Oct. 16)