Death in Her Face
In post-WWII Hollywood, screenwriter Lauren Atwill and her private eye beau are hired to help with a potential PR nightmare for the studio machine: a starlet has disappeared, just as her latest film is about to start shooting. Her secret boyfriend, a former prizefighter with mob ties, has been found murdered in their burned-out love nest. While PI Peter looks into the starlet’s disappearance, Lauren is hired to do script rewrites for the picture. The mystery quickly becomes larger and much more dangerous as gangsters and the FBI get involved.
This is the third Lauren Atwill mystery, but it’s not necessary to read the predecessors in order to enjoy this one. Terse but vibrant character descriptions (of a mobster: “His pale, manicured hands rested on the arms of his chair. They were blotched and red from years of dipping into other people’s misery.”), crisp dialogue, and cracking pace result in a quick and enjoyable read. The studio lot, California coast, and historical Hollywood make for a convincing and compelling setting – film noir on the written page. Atwill is also a fairly engaging character; she’s flawed, not exactly adept with the gun she carries in her purse, next to her lock pick set – but she’s intelligent and conscience-driven. I’ll be picking up the other Atwill mysteries; you might want to try this one and do the same.