The Bottom Line: This atmospheric mystery is a must-read for fans of L.A. Noir and postwar historical fiction.
Set in Los Angeles one year after the end of World War II, private investigators Kit Comfort and Henry Richman have a new client: Hoyle Cooper, a.k.a. the Doctor to the Stars. Cooper wants to find his soon-to-be-ex, Lillian, who left him in March and served divorce papers the following month. According to Cooper, her decision to leave was the idea of her new soul mate, a supposedly reincarnated spirit named Tashin. Cooper will do anything it takes to avoid paying alimony.
The investigation takes Kit deep into the local spiritualism scene. Author A.D. Price deftly creates a vibrant postwar community of séances, psychics, mystics and their customers. After the deadliest war in world history, the entire city seems to be in a period of collective grief. The opportunity to connect with lost loved ones is desperately needed. But the scene is also filled with hustlers (Chief Detective Archie Wetherby: “As long as suckers were still being born, colorful con men were still luring suckers into their lairs”).
And where there’s money to be stolen, murder is never far behind. The deeper Kit and Henry get into the psychic scene, the darker the L.A. underworld becomes. Price inhabits that world with plenty of appetizing characters, not least of which is socialite Sheila Seaver, whose money – Sheila’s husband is a Hollywood movie producer – allows her to thoroughly explore her deep interest in the occult. Known for hosting seances for those in need, she goes to great lengths to create an atmosphere of trust – including swearing attendees to a vow of secrecy.
Seaver’s associates include Madame Zarzinzky, who is known to make objects levitate, and the Reverend, who runs The Temple – a former orphanage that has been transformed to serve the local spiritual community. But as Kit and Henry soon learn, the Reverend doesn’t simply think of himself as a local servant. He has far bigger things in mind. Readers can look forward to a jaw-dropping reveal in the book’s final act.
While The Birthday of Eternity is the second book in Price’s Comfort & Company series, it can easily be enjoyed as a standalone story.