A Roaring Twenties Mystery #2
Minotaur Books, September 2014
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.