There are books you want to keep forever, books you want to pass on to some close friend, and books you just (if you finish them while sitting in a public place) leave behind with a note on the cover saying "Free Book!" This one falls squarely in the third category. It's entertaining and the pace never flags, but it's featherweight and guiltlessly disposable when you're done.
The plot elements, style, and setting are standard-issue Stuart Woods: Lots of glitz, lots of five- and six-figure props, lots of sex, and occasional forays into murder and other forms of misbehavior. It all thunders along at 90 miles an hour, and (as it does) gives good value for your money. The main character is more dynamic than is typical for Woods, which is all for the good.
So far so good. Why, then, only three stars (since I'm rating it compared to other disposable thrillers, not compared to Faulkner)? The problem, oddly enough, is the main character.
Woods gives us a classic crime-thriller setup: A smart bad guy who thinks he's figured out a way to beat the system. The problem is that he's done the setup *so* well that the payoff, when it comes, doesn't satisfy either on a gut level or on the level of plot mechanics. Repeatedly, in the last third of the book, Vinnie/Michael seems to act without thinking things through--unbelievable for the smart guy Woods has set up in the first two-thirds.
That said, it's a measure of Woods' craftsmanship that L. A. Times is *still* a great disposable thriller. Recommended for movie and those with long plane trips coming up.