Sunset City, poet Melissa Ginsburg’s first novel, is a soulful, sexy, dangerous noir. In all good noir the location is an essential character in the story—and Houston’s slippery underbelly fits the bill. It’s all here: the bayous, ship channel refineries, Memorial Park, River Oaks, Montrose, Rudyard’s, and, always, real estate, in a city “that never stopped, it reached and reached,” where money exerts a “gravitational pull.” Ginsburg’s simple plot allows atmosphere to suffuse the story. You’ll feel the humidity on your upper lip and see the vivid, chemical sunsets for which the book is named.
Charlotte, the most fully developed character, is sympathetic but frustrating in her self-destruction, as if she wants to beat someone else to the punch, feeling like “a poison I couldn’t stop swallowing.” She comes undone in the immediate aftermath of Danielle’s murder, on a drug and booze-soaked mental flight, trying to numb her grief. Ginsburg writes one of the best altered states I’ve ever read, both darkly humorous and melancholy, when Charlotte ends up in the drunk tank and it becomes “clear that someone, at some point during the night, had made a bad decision.”Please click here to read the entire review.