It's the 1940s, and screenwriter Lauren Atwill is loaned out to a studio that’s just a tad apprehensive that where she goes, violent death follows (Death in Her Face, 2012, etc.).
It’s been such a long time since Lauren’s had a screen credit that she probably shouldn’t complain about being loaned to the misnamed minor Epic Pictures. Studio head Ben Bracker is both cordial and surprisingly accessible, and instead of assigning Lauren to the latest “co-ed romp” for Mary Ann McDowell, he plans to cast the Epic starlet in something considerably grittier, an adaptation of the dark novel The Hard Fold. That’s got to count as a pleasant surprise—to Lauren, at least, if not to Mary Ann’s trying stage mother, Vera. The problem is Mary Ann herself, who follows Lauren from Bracker’s big party to the nearby home of silent star Roland Neale and gets herself slightly murdered. Only slightly, because she turns up again next day with no sign of having been shot in the face and carried away by Epic security chief Mack Pace and Detective Costello of the LAPD. In fact, there’s no sign that anyone was killed at Neale’s that night. Lauren and her beau, private eye Peter Winslow, realize in retrospect that someone else was shot and someone’s gone to considerable trouble to cover it up. But who was the victim, and how can Lauren and Peter possibly pick out the killer from a cast whose every member is hiding nasty secrets that will take multiple denouements to unpack?
Chatty, detailed and slow-moving, though replete with incident. The conscientious plot complications are consistently overshadowed by revelations about life under the studio system.