In the latest installment of Fischer’s (Pray for Us Sinners, 2013, etc.) Hollywood Murder Mysteries series, public relations man Joe Bernardi investigates a murder in Malibu.
Bernardi is back, and this time he’s working his public relations magic on the 1951 set of director Elia Kazan’s feature film A Streetcar Named Desire. While dealing with the House Un-American Activities Committee’s pressure on Kazan, Bernardi becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding the murder of the country’s No. 1 hatemongering journalist, Bryce Tremayne. The list of suspects is long: Tremayne beat his long-suffering wife, mistreated all his employees and made enemies, including Kazan, with his vicious columns. Bernardi must quell rumors that Kazan had something to do with the murder, while also attending to the combustible atmosphere on the Streetcar set. In the process, he takes a trip to Tijuana, visits a gay bar and tangles with crooked police officers. But will Bernardi get to the bottom of the mystery before he’s targeted himself? Former Columbo and Murder, She Wrote screenwriter Fischer, winner of a 1985 Edgar Award, knows how to pace a thriller, and he treats the gumshoe genre with equal amounts of fun and seriousness. He combines Bernardi’s know-it-all humor with bursts of heart-pounding, page-turning suspense that will likely leave the reader wanting more. He doesn’t focus solely on the famous faces of Streetcar, and that’s a good thing. It gives Bernardi the space he deserves to shine: It’s his world, and they all just live in it. The dialogue is believable throughout and the characters are thankfully three-dimensional; even in the middle of a murder investigation, the smart, sensitive Bernardi still finds time to pine for his longtime love, Bunny, and mourn the slow-burning demise of their relationship. Fischer knows his art, and this fine installment is just as enjoyable as the works before it.
An engaging old-Hollywood whodunit.