The shooting of a superstar actor turns out to have all the intrigue of one of Hollywood’s big-budget blockbusters.
When Oscar-winning actor Dev Roberts is shot and killed by his ex-lover and co-star Ali Garland, it seems like an open-and-shut case. Not only was the crime caught on numerous cameras, but two of Los Angeles’ finest—Detective Blake Ervansky and his new partner, the mysterious and beautiful Sgt. Maureen O’Brien—were also on the scene at the time. During their investigation, what Blake and Maureen discover doesn’t look like coldblooded murder at all but rather a horrible accident, an unfortunate meeting of strained nerves and reality-show prank gone awry. This backbending twist is just the first of many, and when Ali is acquitted by the grand jury, Dev’s estranged father uses his money and influence to wrangle O’Brien and Ervansky away from the force to work solely on his son’s closed case. What the now-private investigators uncover suggests that Ali may indeed have fooled them all, and they’ll have to turn to Maureen’s screenwriter father for a show-biz solution to this perfectly crafted Hollywood murder. Kelly (Winged, 2011) and Lyons’ novel peels back the curtain on not one, but two worlds, giving the reader a glimpse into the glamour of show business and the slow grind of down-and-dirty police work, while blending the two domains in clever metatextual ways. The schemes of stars and starlets take on a noirish feel, while the detectives’ dialogue is not unlike an ’80s cop show, with plenty of snappy banter and clenched-jaw exposition. While this does skirt cliché, the novel’s humor keeps it from being bogged down by its own conventions. The narrative suffers some pacing problems; it captures charming intimate moments with ease, but struggles with the story’s bigger conflicts, often blowing past them far too quickly. As a setting, the city shines, as much a character in the story as the rest of the cast. The only character that falters is Ali, whose personality is a touch too mercurial to be believed.
Uneven pacing can’t drag down good camaraderie and snappy humor.