Darlingtonia, Alba Roja
Left Bank Books, 2017
Darlingtonia is a mystery reimagined for the 21st Century. There’s a classic opening with a dead body and a person who doesn’t figure in the story. The main character, Dylan, is a graphic artist in the advertising department of OingoBoingo, a company with a suspicious product – electronic mind games. In place of continuously lighting up a “smoke” (though there is some of that), Dylan constantly scrolls down her twitter account, her facebook account, her instagram accont – not to mention her iphone, her gmail and other media. The Bay Area setting, a favorite for many mystery novels, has new opportunities as Dylan navigages through landmarks of the tech world.
Dylan’s colleague Ricky has gone missing. Ricky’s job at OingoBoingo involved working on data for special images and when he doesn’t turn up one morning, things start getting weird. Dylan hooks up with a funny – maybe homeless – friend of Ricky’s and embarks on a search that’s interrupted by migraine headaches, imigrants, gentrification, police brutality, hacking, tracking with eventual excursions into the secrets of the internet and the possibilities of algorythms. But as the bookseller informed this reader – the heroine does not suffer violent indignities, and that’s a plus.
It turns out that this book was written by “an anonymous collective of individuals strewn along the west coast.” That might explain why some of Dylan’s actions are described in a detail that contributes to the flavor but might seem a little too much: “…Dylan opens the freezer and starts eating ice cream out of a container. She removes her makeup with an apricot scented wipe while holding a plastic jar of organic pistaschio gelato.” Nonetheless, it’s a fun read.