Summary and book reviews of Sugar Skull by Denise Hamilton

Sugar Skull

By Denise Hamilton

Sugar Skull
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2003,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2004,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

Acclaimed by award committees and critics for her groundbreaking The Jasmine Trade, Denise Hamilton returns with a penetrating new Eve Diamond crime novel sure to confirm her reputation as a rising star.

Los Angeles Times reporter Eve Diamond usually works out of the paper's San Gabriel Valley bureau, but she's taking a weekend shift downtown when a distraught Vincent Chevalier breaks through security and demands her help.

His fifteen-year-old daughter, Isabel, is missing, and the cops won't go looking for her until forty-eight hours have passed. The man thinks he knows where she might be -- with some runaways in a dismal squat in East Hollywood. He wants Eve as his witness when he enters the squat and tries to bring Isabel home.

Eve senses a possible story: Why would a privileged young girl from Pasadena spend time with the down-and-outs in East Hollywood? But there will be no interview with Isabel. Isabel is dead, her body wrapped in a dirty futon and abandoned in a derelict basement.

Eve's questions have only begun. What brought the blond-haired teenager to such a tragic, early demise? Did a man named Finch, who's had past arrests for drugs, burglary, and theft, have something to do with Isabel's murder? What about her father? There's something unsettling about him. And what was Isabel's relationship with Paolo Langdon, her schoolmate and the son of a socialite hostess and a prominent politician?

Even as Eve must fight against powerful forces that want her off the story, she finds herself emotionally drawn to the brooding scion of a Mexican music-promotion titan. It's dangerous to mix professional with personal, but Silvio Aguilar is hard to resist. And in his world, in the little sugar skull confections that commemorate the Mexican Day of the Dead, Eve may find some clue to a killer.

Written with the authenticity and bold strokes that Denise Hamilton has made her own, Sugar Skull is much more than a triumphant crime novel -- it's a dazzling portrait of a city full of diversity. Rich with nuance and insight, this is compelling, illuminating crime writing at its best.

Chapter One

I was sitting at the city desk, halfway through my first cup of cafeteria coffee, when I saw him. His jacket was flapping, his arms flailing, as he sprinted along the computer terminals and zigzagged past three-foot piles of newspapers, eyes trained on the prize -- a big sign that said METRO, under which I sat, scanning the wires on a slow Saturday morning.

You might think that with all those deadline pressures, newsrooms would be kinetic places where people leapt and darted and yelled all day long. Maybe they do at other places, but here at the Los Angeles Times, the only place I've ever worked, such displays are considered a mark of poor breeding.

I'd never seen anyone run in the newsroom and wasn't sure what to make of it. But up he came, skidding to a stop before me, white bubbles foaming at the corners of his mouth. He wore a tweed cap, which he took off and ran along his forehead to swab up the sweat pearling at his hairline. Then he placed the cap over his...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
The Boston Globe - Jim Fusilli

Hamilton, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, captures beautifully the go-here, go-there life of a suburban reporter on a big-city daily, and in Diamond she's created a sympathetic lead character, one who's a tad insecure, eager, and tentative at the same time, and always engaging in an untethered sort of way.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel - Oline Cogdill

Hamilton uses her own background as a journalist and former L.A. Times reporter to detail a newspaper's culture, ethics and politics. Real people work at Eve's newspaper and Hamilton does a first-rate job in making them human. Hamilton doesn't take the easy way out by making Eve's journalistic ethics pristine.

Los Angeles Book Review - Eugen Weber

The lust, greed and turmoil are exhilarating...so absorbing that you don't want to stop reading. So, better start now.

Publishers Weekly

In Edgar finalist Hamilton's (The Jasmine Trade) passionate new puzzle, feisty Los Angeles Times reporter Eve Diamond is anxious to advance from the Valley to a more prestigious desk downtown.

Library Journal - Susan Clifford Braun. Starred Review

[Hamilton has] expertly crafted a tale of lust, greed, murder, and an appetite for power that transcends the deepest of racial, cultural, and class divides in the City of Angels.....Full of great local color, this is recommended for most mystery collections.

Kirkus Reviews

Hamilton (The Jasmine TradeΒΈ 2001) shows that she's every bit as ambitious in tackling big-city corruption as Sara Paretsky. Despite the overloaded plot and the often overscaled emotions, few readers will be able to resist her V.I. Warshawski with a tape recorder and a California tan.

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