While this is a recently released novel, the style is of the 1930s hard boiled detective mysteries. The vocabulary and dialog match the period, as do the police techniques. The author's writing style matches the period as well.
The plot involves a serial murderer in Hollywood in 1936. Someone is strangling young women, many associated with Galaxy Studios and Flynn Sparks, their top money making star. The studio is doing everything to protect their star, frustrating the police investigation. In the center of the action is Shelby. Her family recently lost their farm in Oklahoma and moved to California to find work. Shelby found a job sewing costumes for the studio. A beautiful woman, Sparks tries to seduce her. Might she be the next murder victim?
The recurring theme in the novel is the contrast between being real and being an actor, on and off the stage. The studio created new names and personal histories for their stars. Individuals were creating fantasies, not just on stage but in their own lives. Shelby was a hold out, a Christian, a real person in a world of actors. But she just might fall prey to the rewards of acting a part herself.
At one point in the novel the movie producer talks about a B movie. I would call this a B novel. I have read other novels by Collins and know he can produce snappy dialog. I didn't find it in this novel. He can also create tight plots with great action. I didn't find that in this novel either.
There are some interesting characters. One is a newspaper columnist, covering the movie beat. She is a mover and shaker and wears clothes, head to toe, all the same color. Wednesday was orange day. There is the egotistical Sparks. He is confident he can get any woman he wants into his bed. The other characters seemed flat to me, much like those in the hard boiled detective novels of the 1930s.
I must say the way the murderer is finally made known was clever. It reminded me of Agatha Christie. Collins also included a number of red herrings to throw us off the track. In the end, I would say this is a pretty good period detective novel, just not Collins' best. There is a great Discussion Guide included that really helps identify all the issues in the novel.
Ace Collins is the best-selling and award-winning author of more than sixty titles. He and his wife are based in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. You can find out more at www.acecollins.com.
Abingdon Press, 320 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.