To Funk and Die in LA is the fourth D Hunter story in Nelson George’s series featuring the music industry security specialist who frequently finds himself playing detective. This time the mystery hits home, his grandfather Big Danny is murdered, shot at the intersection of Crenshaw and Wilshire in L.A. D goes for the funeral and stays to find out who killed his grandfather as well as work with his friend Night, the musician, who has moved to LA.
The investigation revealed a lot he did not know about Big Danny, such as a loan-sharking business D did not know about that may have been the motive for his murder. Meanwhile, he is tasked with seeking out Big Danny’s old friend from his club days, Dr. Funk, the famed musician who appears to be living on the streets. Professionally, he is looking after Night and fielding a range of propositions that strike him as dubious.
Music lovers will love To Funk and Die in LA for the musical references alone. Fully inhabiting the LA music scene and the various communities of LA, Nelson George is brilliant at creating a sense of place and time. Brands and bands are on point. It makes the story immediate and authentic. That sort of topicality is almost cinematic, excellent at creating a book for the “now.”
It’s a tradeoff, though. Stories with so much reliance on brands to create the scene become dated in a decade. There’s no intention of writing something that lasts which is too bad. Without that ambition, the story gets short shrift. D does more deal-making or deal-avoiding than detecting and in the end, the identification of the murderer and even the punishment is outsourced. The mystery doesn’t seem to interest George nearly so much as the music industry and that is the part of the story that is good and interesting.
George is at his best and most passionate when writing about music and about the city of LA, about gentrification, about ethnic competition and struggle among Koreans, Blacks, and Latinos, and the effects of racism. In a way, the mystery seems a vehicle for him to write about what really interests him.
To Funk and Die in LA will be released September 5th. I received an ARC through a promotional raffle at LibraryThing.