The agent backed up, allowing me room to use a trick Dashiell Hammett taught me in our Pinkerton days. Pretending to smooth my old friend’s suit, I stepped between the men, slipped two fingers inside Skinny’s suit coat, and retrieved Laura’s wallet without either of them noticing.
Former Pinkerton detective turned mystery writer Jake Donovan is following the love of his life, Broadway actress Laura Wilson, to Hollywood. There, Laura will make the leap from stage to screen, and take advantage of Tinsletown’s sudden demand for new actors with golden voices fit for the talkies. Jake plans to spend his time in the background, finishing the first chapter of his latest work-in-progress and quietly providing Laura with any support she needs. Things don’t go exactly as planned; as soon as they arrive at the train station, they are forced by circumstances to separate and Jake gets conned into attending a swanky Hollywood party with Laura’s voluptuous blond co-star. The next morning, Jake finds himself in hot water with both Laura and the police; the son of the studio head, whom Jake had an altercation with at the previous night’s party, ends up dead and, after being a bit too accommodating at the crime scene, Jake is the prime suspect.
Leading the charge is a clingy former flame, now the police sergeant, and a grumpy detective, each looking to settle their own scores with Jake. To protect Laura’s career—as well as his own, once his publisher finds out he is wanted for murder—Jake needs to weed out who hated the victim enough to want him permanently out of the picture.
YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
- Those Historical Details – The year is 1933: Cameras have flash bulbs, cars have running boards, Prohibition is on its way out, and all of Hollywood is bemoaning the coming enforcement of the Hays Code. Details like this are subtly sprinkled throughout the story, effectively enhancing the setting and transporting the reader back to the “naughtiest and bawdiest” year in Hollywood history (according to the week-old Los Angeles Times the newsboy is hawking at the train station when Jake and Laura leave New York).
- The Detecting – Jake’s got a past as a gumshoe, so he knows all the tricks to get information out of people; when in doubt, he just asks himself what Blackie Doyle, the main character in the novels he writes, would do. But it’s not just Jake; Laura’s got her own ways of using her connections to stealthily pry loose bits of information. Together, they make a great detective duo.
- The Cameos – Appearances from notable personalities including Louella Parsons and William Powell infuse the narrative with a touch of Old Hollywood magic that might leave readers slightly starstruck.
YOU MIGHT NOT ENJOY:
- The Name-Dropping – Not all of the cameos, however, are great. There are a few people that show up or are mentioned that seem out of place. Laura’s connection to the Hollywood sign is a bit heavy-handed, and a last minute encounter at the Los Angeles International Airport (then known as Mines Field) is just random.
Yes! Especially if you are a fan of classic detective movies and mysteries from the 1930s and 1940s, such as The Thin Man or Boston Blackie films. This mystery with a dash of romantic comedy has plenty of witty dialogue and characters to move the story along at a very satisfying pace.
This is the second in the Jake & Laura series.
* I received a free copy of this eBook from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.