Cast the First Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery

Written by James W. Ziskin
Review by Kristen Hannum

It’s February 1962, and Ellie Stone, a reporter for a small paper in upstate New York, gets sent to Los Angeles to interview hometown boy-made-good Tony Eberle, who has just scored his first big movie role. Scored it and blown it just as fast, because Tony doesn’t show up for the first day’s rehearsal. So much for Ellie’s newspaper story—except that Tony’s disappearance seems related to the simultaneous murder of the producer.

This isn’t Ellie’s first dance solving a mystery—although it was the first book in the Ellie Stone series that I had read. Even so, I never felt I was missing important information. Author James Ziskin efficiently recaps previous episodes in a couple of places, but that happens painlessly, without bogging the story down.

Ziskin has fun with California in 1962 as a character in the book. His descriptions are evocative. I also enjoyed a thunderbolt of realization of how much our lives have changed when Ellie needed to find the “Charlie Horse Diner,” and it turned out not to be in the Los Angeles phone book. Google it! came my instinctive response. Alas. I enjoyed too Ellie’s growing understanding and sympathy for the gay and lesbian characters.

Recommended for mystery readers and anyone intrigued by mid-20th-century California.