No Cure for Love
Peter Robinson
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Buy *No Cure for Love* by Peter Robinsononline

No Cure for Love
Peter Robinson
William Morrow Paperbacks
416 pages
February 2016
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Robinson’s noir novel celebrates the essence of Los Angeles in a case that exemplifies the very worst of human evil, in a scenario in which secrecy is an illusion and everything seems to be for sale. British actress Sarah Broughton is celebrating her newfound fame starring as a police officer in a popular new network television show. Sarah has had a rocky beginning as the girlfriend of crazed, druggie rock star Gary Knox, who died about a year or so ago. Their life together was something of a blur. Drunk and stoned or coked-out most of the time, Sarah remembers little about this time, except that her relationship with Gary was mostly characterized by a feeling of “running headlong to embrace death.”

From the echo of the voices that still betray her, telling her that she‘s “an evil slut, a trollop and a tart,” to the darkness that continues to beckon her, Sarah has learned the hard way. The tough, confident character she plays has “only an occasional hairline crack in the professional carapace.” But Sarah’s life is in danger of being defiled by a series of anonymous threatening letters. Deciding that she must no longer procrastinate, Sarah shows the latest letter to Stuart Kleigman, her manager, best friend, and only person in Los Angeles that she can trust.

Conscious that she is being watched even if only surreptitiously, Sarah has been keeping a low profile. Yet as she looks out from her Pacific Palisades beach house to the hazy Santa Monica Mountains and the Santa Monica Pier with its restaurants and gauzy amusement palaces, she feels uneasy. It's not for the first time that Sarah has been looking over her shoulder for the past couple of weeks. Determined to get to the bottom of the threats, Stuart asks Detective Arvo Hughes from the Threat Management Unit of the LAPD to look into the letters. At first Stuart thinks there’s most likely nothing to worry about, as the suspect is unlikely to harm Sarah no matter how vile and terrifying his threats and fantasies look on paper. But handsome, dark-haired Arvo is determined to take the letters seriously. Perhaps the writer is someone Sarah dumped who is intent on getting revenge while also trying to scare her. As these two mismatched souls circle each other warily, Arvo and Sarah are driven into a pact by a “harmless pervert” who might be getting his kicks from drooling over actors and rock stars.

With his usual skill, Robinson uses the mean streets of Los Angeles as a backdrop to an elaborate plot of past transgressions and a new type of serial killer who thinks he’s Sarah’s savior and rescuer. Although the novel shows its age with the technological aspects (this is a world of pre-cell phones and texting), Robinson works his usual artifice, building a bloody sense of violence and dread. Balanced against the bleak, rain-driven wilderness of the North York Moors (where Sarah briefly returns to her family) is sunny, smoggy Los Angeles, a place where a pursuer has recognized himself at last and perhaps found his soulmate, his life’s companion.

All of the evidence so far makes Arvo wonder if Sarah’s past is somehow connected--the tour, the drugs, a dead rock star, a random stalker--someone who has perhaps seen her on TV and fallen in love with her: “all the possibilities, too many damn possibilities, that’s the problem.” In an unfolding drama of love and jealousy and death, the craziness around Gary Knox’s past is set against Sarah’s “demon lover” and a man called Mitch Cameron, whom Sarah knows but can’t quite remember clearly. When the authorities discover the body of a male prostitute and then find another major character mutilated in the bedroom of his Laurel Canyon home, Arvo realizes that perhaps Sarah’s potential stalker is making his first tentative foray into homicide and dismemberment. Utilizing all of his instincts to a much greater degree than DCI Banks, considering the time period in which the novel is set, we witness Arvo on the hunt to find a serial murderer even as he grapples with his feelings for Sarah and for Maria Hernandez, his sexy Threat Management colleague.

Loyal fans of Robinson should demand a follow-up as Arvo is an enormously appealing character. Sarah, too, is alluring as she faces something evil that pushes at the surface of her memory, “like a hand reaching though the darkness, clawing away the cobwebs.” While a feeling bit dated and featuring a predictable climax, No Cure for Love is a memorable blend of human nature at its worst, featuring a grizzled but lovable police detective who works frantically to save Sarah from the cold clutches of a killer.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2016

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