RICHARD ALEAS. Little Girl Lost (2004).

27 Feb

The Aleas name is an alias—a nice touch, that. It belongs to Charles Ardai, publisher of the Hard Case Crime imprint, a line of neo-retro paperback originals. (The pseudonym is also an anagram of Ardai’s real name.) This début novel is a product of that line, but it’s hardly a vanity publication. Paying homage to the wise-guy style and grim worldview of mid-20th-century noir fiction, Ardai shrewdly updates an old noir story: A private eye, bent on avenging the murder of a former lover, plunges into a grimy underworld that slowly reveals itself to be a hall of mirrors.LittleGirlLost.jpg The setting is New York City, circa 2003, a place where the hum of cell-phone talk and cable-news chatter threatens to drown out the sweet melody of doom that provides noir characters everywhere with their theme music. In Ardai’s arrangement, though, both the hum and the melody are perfectly audible.

The PI in this rendition of the story, a fresh-faced NYU lit major named John Blake, reads in the Daily News one morning about the killing of a stripper at her place of business, an East Village joint called the Sin Factory. He recognizes her face as well as her name: Miranda Sugerman. Miranda was his high-school sweetheart, and he hasn’t seen her since she went away to college as a pre-med student about ten years ago. How, in one short decade, did she go from such an innocent start to such a squalid end? To retrace her journey, Blake delves into the silicone-inflated stripper subculture, befriends a Sin Factory “professional” who develops a soft spot for him (in a heart that might or might not be of gold), and lands a client in the form of an Armenian-American drug dealer who wants him to find $500,000 in cash that Miranda might have helped to steal. Along the way, as he asks what became of Miranda, Blake ends up wondering what has become of himself.

Sure-handed plotting, clever but not too clever writing, and a classic twist ending—hidden from view by an equally classic diversionary move—make this Hard Case title easy to like.


Posted by on February 27, 2014 in American, Hard-Boiled, Novel, Puzzle


4 responses to “RICHARD ALEAS. Little Girl Lost (2004).

  1. John

    March 3, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    I liked this one a lot. I immediately bought the sequel when it came out, but… That’s right still haven’t read it. However, Fifty-to-One, a homage to old private eye novels published under Ardai’s own name, I thought was too much of a big private joke. Didn’t like that one at all.

    • Mike

      March 5, 2014 at 6:13 AM

      I didn’t read “Fifty-to-One,” but the marketing for it put me off in the very way that you suggest. It looks like a bit of contrived nostalgia, a gimmick. The beauty of “Little Girl Lost” (I haven’t gotten around to the second John Blake novel, either) is that it extends the private-eye tradition without condescending or coyly winking at that tradition.

  2. Cavershamragu

    February 6, 2015 at 1:29 PM

    I must get this – I read SONGS OF INNOCENCE, the follow-up, and thought it superb

    • Mike

      February 7, 2015 at 10:22 AM

      Thanks for the comment, Sergio. Long time no (virtually) see. I’ve just been too busy with work to read much, let alone write up reviews of what I do read. Anyway, my situation is the reverse: I have “Songs of Innocence” sitting on my bookshelves but haven’t read it. Good to know that it’s not a let-down from the début work.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: