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by Ron Goulart

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-20892-8
Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur

It’s 1938, and Mammoth Studios is filming The Valley of Fear, in which Sherlock Holmes is played by Miles Ravenshaw, that notorious English ham. But the work is interrupted when someone shoots the director, Felix Denker, an enigmatic German ÇmigrÇ. Not to worry, however, since on hand to sort things out is Groucho Marx, that notable comedian-sleuth (Groucho Marx, Private Eye, 1999, etc.). Aiding and abetting Groucho is ex-crime reporter Frank Denby, who’s no slow coach of a quipster himself. It’s while the two are on their way to sell a funny script idea that they stumble on Denker’s corpse, and, on the basis of sketchy evidence indeed, decide that the LAPD will welcome the help of amateurs (it doesn—t). Meanwhile, Ravenshaw, to hype his troubled film, has publicly vowed to outsleuth the Marxian fake—ham versus sham, in effect. Groucho—or rather Goulart’s one-dimensional and entirely unconvincing version of him—goes to work. The game’s a foot and a half, he announces, and proceeds to disinter the dead director’s Nazi connections, paving the way to some other not-so-startling revelations. Along the way, he has to flee from bad guys firing pistols, while Frank endures the obligatory head-bashing. But the usual suspects are duly rounded up and penned together for the denouement, when Groucho gets to say the magic words. Plotting negligible, jokes painful. Groucho oucho.