Russell, Alan. Guardians of the Night.

Seattle: Thomas & Mercer, 2014.

This is the second novel about Detective Michael Gideon, ex-K9 cop with the LAPD and now a “special cases” investigator, and his four-legged partner, Sirius. As with the previous volume, Gideon has two cases to deal with, the first involving the supposed murder of an “angel” as reported by a homeless man in Venice Beach.

And then the witness turns up dead as well, and Gideon finds himself deep in the world of the secret development of military drone aircraft and unbridled egos protected by claims of national security. He was already involved in trying to identify the “Reluctant Hero,” a mysterious man who took down a schoolyard gunman before he could start shooting children, but who then disappeared. Gideon thinks maybe the guy has a good reason to avoid the limelight and undertakes the search in that spirit. And the two plotlines will eventually blend together, sort of.

The writing isn’t bad when the narrative sticks to the police investigation, or when the main character is attempting to deal with his demons, the result of having been badly burned in the line of duty back at the beginning of the first book. But the saccharin content rises considerably when Gideon is chatting with Lisbet, his new girlfriend, or when he’s engaging in incessant conversation with the dog. The adjective used by some reviewers is “heartwarming,” but I could very easily do without it.

Russell also is determined to demonstrate how much he knows about the history of L.A. generally and Hollywood in particular, not to mention classic rock. Some of the scenes, in fact, seem to have been included for no other purpose than to allow him to recite facts from his research, because they certainly don’t advance the story. If he could keep the setting from taking over the narrative, it would be a much better book.

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