The Pictures

Guy Bolton's debut noir mystery, The Pictures, is a hardboiled delight: a fascinating, twisted puzzler with well-developed characters. It's 1939, and Los Angeles police detective Jonathan Craine is a Hollywood studio "fixer"--covering up domestic abuses, back-alley abortions, illicit affairs and drunken car crashes that might tarnish the reputations of movie stars and executives employed by the city's biggest and most profitable industry: the movie studios. After months away from his post following the suicide of his actress wife (spun as a "dreadful accident"), Craine is immediately embroiled in two crimes that threaten the production of The Wizard of Oz.

Called to the scene of a young woman's brutal murder, Craine's kneejerk reaction is to downplay the savage violence at the scene and instead reframe the crime as a botched robbery. The following morning, MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer summons him to help cover up the suicide of Herbert Stanley, a producer and husband to one of the studio's biggest stars, Gale Goodwin. When Craine is paired with rookie detective Patrick O'Neill (who has his own issues as the son of a famous police officer), Craine begins to awaken from his grief and complacency. Instead of brushing aside inconsistencies in the two cases, the two detectives decide to investigate the seedy links between the deaths.

The Pictures is a compelling and dazzling debut for fans of Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy. Bolton's tightly paced mystery vividly re-creates 1930s Hollywood and is enriched with complicated, fascinating and flawed characters. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

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