I used to be obsessed with Hollywood when I was younger.
That should have been the tip-off to my family, right? My obsession with old films, the Oscars, and superstar actresses of the past? I lived for awards season; read tons of books about Hollywood history and the making of movies and biographies/memoirs of stars; I read People and Us magazines (Us was a biweekly years ago). I wrote about movie stars in Murder in the Rue Ursulines, and my first Phyllis A. Whitney novel that wasn’t a y/a that I read, about a haunted Hollywood legend (Listen for the Whisperer) remains my favorite of hers to this day. I’m not sure when I stopped being interested in celebrities and gossip about them, and the entertainment industry; but while the interest has somewhat waned (I often skip the Oscars now), I do still enjoy reading fiction set in or around the industry.
So, it’s strange that it took me so long–and that it also took the Diversity Project–for me to finally sit down with Kellye Garrett’s terrific debut novel, Hollywood Homicide.
He stared at my resume like it was an SAT question. One of the hard ones where you just bubbled in C and kept it moving. After a minute–I counted, since there was nothing else to do–he finally looked up and smiled. “So, Dayna Anderson…”
He got my name right. The interview was off to a pretty good start. “So what in your previous experience would make you a good fit for this position?”
He smiled again, this time readjusting the Joey, Manager, Ask me about our large jugs! name tage that was prominently placed on his uniform. Since I was sitting in the Twin Peaks coffee shop interviewing to be a bikini barista, said uniform happened to be a Speedo. I pegged him for twenty-two, tops. And it wasn’t just because he didn’t have a centimeter of hair anywhere on his body. I made a mental note to get the name of his waxer.
And so opens Kellye Garrett’s terrific debut novel, which I hope is the first of a long series I will be able to continue to enjoy over the years (the second, Hollywood Ending, was published last year before the publisher, Midnight Ink, announced that it was shutting down, thus orphaning many a terrific crime writer: SOMEONE ELSE NEEDS TO PICK UP THIS SERIES).
Dayna, our main character, is a retired actress with no source of income and running out of cash pretty darned quick. To compound her financial problems (spoiler: she doesn’t get the bikini barista job) her parents are underwater on their house payments and she needs to come up some cash to prevent them from being evicted. One night while out on the town with friends they are almost hit by another car…and as they continue driving, find out that someone has been killed by a hit-and-run driver. As the financial woes continue to compound, Dayna decides to solve the crime in order to win the offered reward and bail her parents out.
Far-fetched? Maybe. But it’s not the worst premise for an investigation for the first book in a series where the main character is not a professional investigator (cop, PI, reporter, lawyer), and it’s actually much more of a clever take than the standard trope of “stumbling over a dead body/I have to solve this crime because everyone thinks I’m the killer,” which most authors use* (holds up hand–GUILTY AS CHARGED).
And the supporting cast is as interesting and fun as Dayna herself; we don’t get a lot of background on any of them, really–Garrett is guilty of playing her cards close to her vest, as it were–which gives her the opportunity to delve into them all more deeply in the future volumes I hope are coming for us all. The plot twists and turns and winds up very very far from the hit-and-run accident the book opens with…and every step of the way I was rooting for Dayna. She’s likable, has a great sense of humor (not only is she funny but she also has a sense of humor about herself, and about Hollywood as well), and then there’s that love interest–a friend from back home who is just now breaking big on television.
SO MUCH FUN.
COnstant Reader, get thee hither to the book merchant with credit or debit card in hand.
*This isn’t a bad thing, by the way–most authors who do use this trope are incredibly creative and smart in how they use it; the point I am making is I greatly appreciated the originality of Kellye’s methodology of getting her amateur sleuth involved.