By Wade Graham
(HarperCollins, 480 pages, $35)
We are what we plant, L.A.-based writer Wade Graham posits in his history of gardens. When he isn’t explaining the economic and cultural influences, he crafts fascinating profiles. Who knew that we have A.J. Downing, destined to be Central Park’s designer until he died in a ferry accident, to credit for our obsession with lawns? L.A.’s contribution of the garden as an outdoor room, we learn, owes much to modernists like Rudolph Schindler. While Graham mourns the loss of nature—deified even as it’s defiled by the suburbs—he presents an engaging look at our own pieces of paradise.
Guilt by Association
By Marcia Clark
(Mulholland Books, 368 pages, $26)
There’s a new voice in L.A. crime fiction, and it’s a familiar one. The debut novel from Marcia Clark (yes, that one) stars Rachel Knight, a sassy, workaholic deputy district attorney—remind you of anyone?—whose crack detective skills solve two violent cases. The hard-drinking, gun-toting prosecutor bends the rules to catch the bad guys and works her way from the Biltmore Hotel to MacArthur Park to Malibu. Despite the clichés, the plot races along, and Clark adds just enough smart lawyer talk to keep us edified. It’s sure to satisfy Law & Order fans.