"Southside is a solid debut novel from Los Angeles Times crime reporter Michael Krikorian. Krikorian writes what he knows, spinning a tale about a Los Angeles Times crime reporter, Michael Lyons, who covers the many gangs of the City of Angels. As an editor, I would have counseled Krikorian to not give the character-clearly a fictionalized version of himself-his own first name, which gets a bit too on the nose, but that's a minor nitpick.
The novel gets off to a somewhat disjointed start, with frequent shifting of narrative viewpoint from third person to first person, but the reader settles into the format and eventually the loose ends come together. The story really gets rolling when Lyons is gunned down in the street but survives. He has made many enemies through his reporting, but none of the possible suspects really seems to make sense. As the police investigation stalls, Lyons himself digs deeper into the case.
This classic set-up takes a nice twist about a third of the way in, setting the police department against Lyons and the paper, and the paper against Lyons, ratcheting up tensions and complicating the investigation. Other victims, who don't survive, may be connected, but the evidence is slim. Overall, these plot threads are handled well. "Southside" is a thriller rather than a whodunit, since the reader is introduced to the killer fairly early, and Krikorian builds the tension effectively as you wonder if the police or Lyons are going to catch up with the murderer before there's another victim.
The good guys occasionally make some rather large intuitive leaps from thin evidence, and sometimes the narrative tries a little too hard for its gritty street atmosphere, but despite being a little rough around the edges, "Southside" is a good story populated with colorful characters. Most of those characters, on either side of the law, are not simple stereotypes, but are complex, real people, which makes for engaging reading. It's definitely worth a try and provides firm footing for additional adventures for Michael Lyons."
Reviewed by Scott Pearson, author of "Star Trek: Honor in the Night" and cohost of the Generations Geek podcast, for Suspense Magazine