In this literary thriller, a young man descends into the Los Angeles underworld to find his family’s killer—aided by a group of strangers with their own shadowy pasts.
When Marty returns to Pennsylvania after living in California for ten years, he’s happily welcomed by his father and older brother, Jody. The joyful reunion is short-lived. Two days later, Jody enters the house to find his father and Marty shot dead as their masked killer flees out the back door. Without any answers from the local police, Jody heads to Los Angeles looking for who murdered his family and why.
Soon, he finds a trove of strange videos recorded by his brother that leads him into the city’s most dangerous corners, where he comes up against drug dealers, crooked cops, surf gangs, and black-market profiteers. As his investigation expands, it also intersects with Pen, a documentary filmmaker who suspects humanity is living in a simulation and that her missing father found a portal to escape; Renata, an undocumented immigrant who might have evidence to support Pen’s theory; and Tiph, a young mother whose desperate efforts to support her only child via a stolen art stash could prove the key to answering all these mysteries.
My Dirty California is a cinematic, suspenseful, intricately plotted thriller that explores the darker side of the glamorous Golden State.
The murder of Marty Morrel, an L.A. blogger focused on the "dark history below California's undeniably beautiful surface," propels screenwriter Mosberg's kaleidoscopic, sprawling debut—a mystery with a sci-fi/supernatural vibe. Marty's brother uses his trove of videos and blog posts to search for the killer, but other story lines from Marty's past intersect with his quest: Pen, a documentary filmmaker who believes that reality might be a simulation, stumbles on Marty's blog; Renata, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, meets Marty then disappears; and Tiphony, a striving, struggling young mother, gets enmeshed in a scheme to find a stash of stolen art that may have had a connection to Marty. The entire narrative is framed as a kind of true crime podcast that was never released, but that conceit isn't carried through effectively. Mosberg writes well about the many ills, past and present, in the Golden State, but he's simply not in control of his unnavigable plot, which reads like a prose rendition of a 10-part Netflix series. Mystery fans won't bite, but readers with a taste for freewheeling, ambiguous narratives may have fun. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Co.