A thrilling mystery packed with Hollywood glamour, intrigue and murder, set in 1948 Mexico.
When Hollywood public relations flack Joe Bernardi is sent to the troubled Tampico, Mexico, set of an overhyped, overbudget film called The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, he expects to deal with star Humphrey Bogart’s boozing and womanizing. But when Bogie turns out to be behaving, Joe has little spin-doctoring to do—until one of the movies’ minor stars turns up dead. A man named Jimbo Ochoa is arrested, but Joe doubts the man’s guilt. He does as his P.R. job demands, painting the situation in the best light possible and trying to keep the studio heads from hearing the gory details. However, as he dives deeper into investigation, he uncovers a conspiracy that seems to reach the upper echelons of the Mexican police force. Can Joe solve the murder before the movie wraps and, more importantly, before he’s targeted himself? Fischer (Jezebel in Blue Satin, 2011, etc.) is a former Hollywood screenwriter; his TV credits include Murder, She Wrote and Columbo, and his awards include a 1985 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. It shows—the novel’s dialogue is pithy and tight, and its characters well fleshed out. Although the story features many famous faces (Bogart, director John Huston, actor Walter Huston and novelist B. Traven, to name a few), the plot smartly focuses on those behind the scenes. The big names aren’t used as gimmicks—they’re merely planets for the story to rotate around, flickering in and out of focus. Joe is the star of the show, and this fictional tale in a real-life setting (the actual set of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was also fraught with problems) works well in Fischer’s sure hands. The novel feels like an hour-long drama, and readers will likely become invested in finding out whodunit. This is the second book in the Hollywood Murder Mysteries series, so, fortunately, it may not be the last we see of Joe.
A smart, clever Mexican mystery.