The interesting thing about having spent a lot of time in a place is that it really gives a sense of perspective. When it is LA or NY or something similar, it becomes a fully shared experience. Santa Barbara as a rule of thumb is a much smaller community. Creating a modern noir on the American Riviera and still making it feel local and not elitist is a hard balance to come by. “Lost Tomorrows” [Matt Coyle/Oceanview/368pgs], even though many times it deals too much in absolutes, has a great through line running through it. While likely not a great recruiting tool for the police department, its sense of geography down to even a phone booth shows an undeniable aspect of details. While it lays into fairly cliche territory at times, the pulp ideal of its fiction works pretty well, especially in the aspect of Rick Chaill, a PI with smarts who at times is too stupid for his own good because he can’t come to terms with his own psyche. All the different characters work well and have their own reasoning even though you hate most of everyone in the end but they all have their own reasons for being the way they are. In that way it does feel like a thriller in a similar way to “Basic Instinct” but without the full sexualized background of that. The lead character Cahill comes back to Santa Barbara after being vilified and accused of his wife’s murder many years before. He returns when his former partner and one time lover on the force (Krista) seemingly gets killed by a drunk driver on State Street. Cahill becomes embroiled with her sister Leah whom Cahill seems to see a lot of his perceptions in. There are many plot strands that aren’t completely balanced along with certain motivations but it still moves. And Cahill’s approaches to crimes and morally progressive actions at times don’t jive with what the story could be. That said, it is undeniably entertaining and its resolution expected when you think about it but not exactly what one would think. In that way it knows what it is, paints a world but also draws you into the characters head space, however misaligned it is.
By Tim Wassberg