Angelino Heights, By Adam Bregman, 200 pgs.

In Adam Bregman’s debut novel, a schoolteacher named Dalton falls in with a sketchy dude named Nathan Lyme. Nathan sets up Dalton with Melanee, a French grifter, ostensibly so Dalton will owe him a favor. Melanee dies in an accidental fall, after which Nathan has Dalton over a barrel. The duo starts robbing houses in Los Angeles and fencing their haul.

I don’t read a lot of noir, but I recognize all of the genre’s tropes in Angelino Heights: stock characters, unexpected connections, murky motives, the setting as character. The novel moves with an engaging energy—no scenes are wasted throughout. This kinetic delivery made it easier for me to overlook some of the novel’s shortcomings. More than anything else, a good editor would have smoothed out the bumpy ride: adverbs aplenty, tons of sentences using “there was” and “there were” instead of picking better subjects and verbs, misplaced modifiers, characters pondering and raging things to themselves. Bregman’s prose was so frequently choppy so I’m obliged to mention it here—something I don’t usually do because it sounds pedantic. Another set of trained eyes would have easily smoothed this all out.

Despite the occasionally tempestuous ride, I enjoyed Angelino Heights. Bregman has a good sense of pacing, and his touch with interior monologue is deft. I look forward to seeing where he goes next. –Michael T. Fournier (New Plains, newplainspress.com)