Twenty-two-year old Charlotte Ford reconnects with Danielle, her best friend from high school, a few days before Danielle is found bludgeoned to death in a motel room. In the wake of the murder, Charlotte's life unravels and she descends into the city's underbelly, where she meets the strippers, pornographers and drug dealers who surrounded Danielle in the years they were estranged.
Ginsburg's Houston is part of a lesser known south, where the urban and rural collide gracelessly. In this shadowy world, culpability and sympathy blur in a debut novel which thrillingly brings its three female protagonists to the fore.
Scary, funny and almost unbearably sad, Sunset City is written with rare grace and empathy holding you transfixed, praying for some kind of escape for Charlotte.
Sunset City by Melissa Ginsburg was published in trade paperback by Faber & Faber on 21 April 2016, and is the author's debut novel. I am delighted to be hosting the Blog Tour here on Random Things today.
There is a lot packed into this slim volume, at under 200 pages, it's a quick read, but it's by no means simple. This is crime noir at its best. It is gritty, and grubby. It is dirty, erotic, funny and really very good.
Although there is, quite clearly, a horrendous crime at the centre of this story, it is not a traditional crime novel. This is not the story of how the police track down the person that brutally murdered young Danielle. The reader does not know who the killer is, nor do we know much about what happened. We are told that Danielle was found battered to death in a seedy motel room, that's all.
Although Danielle is dead before the beginning of the book, she is brought vividly to life through the author's incredibly descriptive writing. Charlotte, her best friend from high school, mourns her, and talks about her. Charlotte remembers her vibrant, beautiful, wealthy friend. She also remembers why they lost touch; the descent into the depths of drug addictions; the dirt; the moods. Charlotte was delighted to reconnect with Danielle recently, and despite her hesitancy about how Danielle has been making a living, she still loves her. And now she is dead.
Melissa Ginsburg takes her readers and thrusts them into a dark seedy Houston. Along the way we encounter the lowest of society, we accompany Charlotte as she spends time with the most noxious of characters. As Charlotte begins to fall deeper into this world the author's writing becomes more and more descriptive, it's as though we too are infected by the sleaze and the grime just by turning the pages.
With themes of mother-daughter relationships, violation and hedonism, Sunset City is a vivid and startling story. It can be uncomfortable to read, but it is incredibly compelling too. A very fine debut.
My thanks to Kate from the publisher Faber & Faber who sent my copy for review.
Melissa Ginsburg was born and raised in Houston and attended the Iowa Writer's Workshop.
She is the author of the poetry collection Dear Weather Ghost and two poetry chapbooks, Arbor and Double Bind.
She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Mississippi.
Sunset City is her first novel.
Find out more about Melissa Ginsburg at www.melissaginsburg.net
Follow her on Twitter @Ginsburgmelissa