After graduation, Danny Parker ended his relationship with Joyce Villareal to become a priest. Now, having witnessed so much death and destruction in the Great War, he questions his faith and God’s existence. Thoughts of Joyce and renewing their relationship sustain him, but meanwhile she has pursued her own dreams and is a rising Hollywood star.
On his return to Long Beach, California, Danny finds work in the oil fields and visits Joyce’s father, only to hear that Joyce has gone missing. Joyce’s father pleads with Danny to investigate, and Danny enlists the help of his brother, a Long Beach police officer. When a high school friend’s girl is kidnapped off the beach, Danny begins to wonder if the same might have happened to Joyce. But who took her and why?
The coercion of someone close to the investigation is the weak thread in what is otherwise an intricately woven web of intrigue. The reason for the blackmail is plausible, but the resolution is a bit pat and the character’s guilt isn’t deeply explored. Even so, this historical mystery combines the inspirational themes of redemption and second chances with greed, corruption, jurisdictional disputes, and political clout in a way that vividly transports readers back to 1919. Glamour and glitz, as well as black gold, provide the camouflage that hides the seamier side of a Hollywood where exploiting innocence and pleasure take precedence over human decency.