Once upon a time, silver-screen siren Greta Garbo could drive men to homicide. So what else is new?
Valentino (he’s secretive about his first name) adores old movies and, lucky him, earns his bread by tracking them down for the Department of Film Preservation at UCLA. At the moment, however, he’s feeling less than lucky because he’s immersed in three simultaneous love affairs and a related case of heartburn. The first is with Garbo, star of stars. Cineastes know that she made her debut at 16 in a promotional film for a Swedish retailer; Garbo-besotted Val palpitates at the hope of getting his hands on this treasure. Second is the Oracle. In its heyday a byword for movie-palace opulence, it’s now a derelict money pit for Val, blinkered by passion, who’s about to go broke attempting to restore it. Lovely, smart, funny Harriet Johansen deserves a ranking higher than third, but she doesn’t get it because Val is clueless about living, breathing women. Obviously, life has become an existential conundrum for our hero even before he finds himself up to his eyeballs in the Garbo-related murder of a slimy no-good named Roger Akers. Who cares who killed Roger Akers? Suddenly, Val has to.
Second in a series that marks a pleasant departure for the estimable Estleman (Frames, 2008, etc.), who’s spent most of his 60-plus novels on the dark side.