Saturday, September 20, 2014

ARC Review: Silent Murders (A Roaring Twenties Mystery) by Mary Miley

Silent Murders
Author: Mary Miley
Series: A Roaring Twenties Mystery (Book 2)
Publication: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (September 23, 2014)

Description: Vaudeville actress Leah Randall took on her most daring role ever when she impersonated missing heiress Jessie Carr in order to claim Jessie’s inheritance in The Impersonator. Now that the dust has settled around that tumultuous time in her life, Leah has adopted Jessie’s name as her own and moved to Hollywood, where she's taken a modest but steady job in the silent film industry.

Jessie’s thrilled when Bruno Heilmann, a movie studio bigwig, invites her to a party. She’s even more delighted to run into a face from her past at that party. But the following day, Jessie learns that sometime in the wee hours of the morning both her old friend and Bruno Heilmann were brutally murdered. She’s devastated, but with her skill as an actress, access to the wardrobes and resources of a film studio, and a face not yet famous enough to be recognized, Jessie is uniquely positioned to dig into the circumstances surrounding these deaths. But will doing so put her own life directly in the path of a murderer?

With Silent Murders, MB/MWA First Crime Novel Competition winner Mary Miley has crafted another terrifically fun mystery, this time set in the dizzying, dazzling heart of jazz-age Hollywood.

My Thoughts: Jessie Beckett has left vaudeville, and a stint impersonating a lost heiress, behind and is building a new life and career in Hollywood. She is working as an assistant script girl on a Douglas Fairbanks movie. She and one her roommates, now named Myrna Loy, are invited to a party at the home of a famous director. There Jessie meets a woman who knew her mother and traveled the same vaudeville circuit Jessie and her mother traveled. The woman made an appointment for the next day to share memories of Jessie's mother and to give her some playbills with her mother's picture.

When Jessie arrives at Esther's apartment, she finds Esther dead from a blow to the head. Jessie has avoided the police all her life. Most vaudevillians do because, as strangers in town, it is easy to blame them for crimes. After packing up the playbills and sending them to herself, she does call the police which leads to her being interrogated. She meets a policeman named Delaney who seems smarter and more honest than the usual cop.

She gets a call from Douglas Fairbanks when she gets home. He tells her about a murder and asks for a favor. It seems that the famous director was murdered after the party and now Fairbanks wants Jessie to go to his home and retrieve articles left by Lottie Pickford, Mary's sister, who was having an affair with him.

Because the threat of one more scandal might bring down the fledgling movie industry, Fairbanks asks Jessie to investigate and try to preserve reputations. Jessie meets an old friend from the first book who is now financing movies and says he has left his bootlegging past behind and his presence complicates her investigation.

This mystery had it all. The 1920s Hollywood setting came to life with its different customs. It's Prohibition but that doesn't stop Hollywood elite from drinking and doing drugs. I liked the way the author worked in Hollywood celebrities - Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and rising stars Myrna Loy and Gary Cooper. I liked the information about the time before movies were in color or had sound. I especially enjoyed Jessie's encounter with the Gainaday clothes washing machine and all her driving around in a Flivver.

I recommend this historical mystery for movie buffs and fans of intrepid heroines.

Favorite Quote:
"You're smart. You notice things others miss.  And you have a way of sensing things, almost like a mind reader."

I thought about that. After a lifetime on stage watching for subtle clues, making decisions based on someone's tone of voice, picking up pn a raised eyebrow or the lift of a chin, and absorbing the audience's mood through my skin, it was probably inevitable that I would become sensitive to details, especially the human kind. "I think maybe I read people, not minds."
I received this ARC from NetGalley after getting an email invitation. You can buy your copy here.

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