Book Review: Silent Murders by Mary Miley

Silent MurdersSilent Murders
A Roaring Twenties Mystery #2
Mary Miley
Minotaur Books, September 2014
ISBN 978-1-250-05137-0
Hardcover

In an effort to escape her past, vaudeville actress Leah Randall has changed her name to Jessie Beckett and moved from Oregon to Hollywood, California. Jessie lands a job as a script girl, a position that makes her responsible for the continuity of the silent film she’s working on. Her efficiency soon brings her to the attention of actor and producer Douglas Fairbanks, and his wife, Mary Pickford. Aspiring actress Myrna Loy is one of Jessie’s roommates.

These connections are all very well and should work in her favor. Not so well is that Jessie garners the special attention of Bruno Heilmann, head of the studio where she works. This attention brings her an invitation to one of Heilmann’s notorious parties, renowned for the booze, the drugs, and the sleeping around.

Jessie, accompanied by Myrna Loy, attends the party, furthering her friendship with Pickford and Fairbanks. She and Myrna leave the party early. On the way out, they witness a shouting match between two actresses known for being mistresses of Heilmann. When Heilmann turns up murdered the next day, everyone seems to be a suspect.

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the murders. Heilmann is shot, a caterer’s assistant is clubbed to death, a woman is drowned,and another man is poisoned. All factor in, making detection of the murderer even more difficult. When it turns out dirty cops have stolen a load of drugs from Heilmann’s house, everything becomes even more complicated. And then, when David, a man Jessie knew as a drug lord back in Oregon turns up, she doesn’t know what to think.

I loved the atmosphere of this novel. Prohibition, the roaring twenties, silent films, old Hollywood and silent film stars. What’s not to like? The history seems spot on, and while the motivation of at least some of the murders may be a bit contrived, the characters and the setting and era make this a lovely read. I like Jessie very much. She’s a character who comes alive in my imagination. And now she has a choice between two men in her life. I think we’re supposed to root for David, but I don’t know. I find myself drawn to Carl. I’ll be waiting for the next installment.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: The Impersonator by Mary Miley—and an Invitation

The ImpersonatorThe Impersonator
Mary Miley
Minotaur Books, September 2013
ISBN 978-1-250-02816-7
Hardcover

1924. Vaudeville acts tour the country. Radio programs have just begun. Coolidge is about to become President. All this is backdrop for an enticing mystery by Mary Miley. Full of historical facts and locales and people, this period piece impressed me, always a bit wary of stories set in the past. But Miley makes it come alive with rich descriptions and stand-out characters.

Leah is a longtime Vaudeville actress whose life is about to change. She looks just like Jesse Carr, a missing heiress from Oregon, and the uncle of the girl has come to offer Leah a deal: come back to Oregon and impersonate the missing girl and share a fortune. When circumstances in the Vaudeville circuit turn against her, Leah accepts the deal. She has a lot of people to convince, though, some of them very unhappy about the return of a family member and the potential loss of a lot of money. The plans to inherit are fraught with problems, dangers, and death. What really happened to Jess seven years earlier? Who knows the truth and what lengths will some people go to secure wealth?

I think what makes period pieces believable is how fact can be mixed with fiction. If done well, you have a superior story. Miley hits the mark with The Impersonator. I thought the set up to the scheme was a bit fast, but I understood that I needed to be intrigued by the murder mystery soon to come. Also being a fan of Jack Benny, I was happy to see him involved in the story, albeit in a minor role. This book won the First Crime Novel award and deservedly so.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, September 2013.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

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For those of you lucky enough to live in central

Virginia, here’s a chance to meet Mary Miley

and have a roaring good time.

Mary Miley Launch Poster