Picks and Pans Review: The Burning Plain

updated 02/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Michael Nava

Page-Turner of the Week

LOS ANGELES CRIMINAL DEFENSE: Attorney Henry Rios has big problems. A gay Chicano, he watched his longtime lover die nearly a year ago and now finds himself accused of murdering a homosexual prostitute and disposing of his body in a Dumpster. As Rios struggles to prove his innocence and search out the real killer, he treads a resonant and richly textured urban landscape, from the carnival atmosphere of Hollywood Boulevard to the deadly cruising grounds of Griffith Park to the offices of studio moguls. With a fine eye for the nuances of gay life—and straight prejudice—author Michael Nava, a San Francisco lawyer, creates a moody portrait of a city where fantasy and reality jaywalk into evil. In the tradition of Raymond Chandler, Nava finds L.A. guilty as charged—a place where greatness is measured by greenbacks and lives are tossed aside like so many rejected movie scripts. And like Chandler's better work, pushes at the edges of the genre, turning a crime novel into a morality play. (Putnam, $23.95)

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