Hollywood noir at its finest
by Guy Bolton
Mystery & Thrillers, General Fiction (Adult)
Pub Date 02 Mar 2017
The Pictures is a well composed noir thriller set against the glimmering backdrop of Los Angeles’ past. The Golden Age of Hollywood still attracts attention with its glamour, larger than life celebrities and its mystery. The motion picture industry, unlike most of America recovering from the depression, was successful, generating wealth and influence by creating a means of escape for a suffering public. Movie stars of the time were essentially idols, whose appearance could not be tarnished by scandal. “Fixers” were paid, and paid well to prevent unwelcome facts from becoming public. With its hidden corruption and cellulite femme fatales, it makes a perfect setting for a tale of gangsters, murder, blackmail and lust.
Detective Jonathan Craine is the archetypal noir antihero. He is as corrupt as it comes, willingly taking money from the studios in exchange for keeping their stars out of trouble whether by losing evidence or framing someone convenient. Faced with a brutal murder, he refuses to investigate, forcing a confession from a “likely” suspect. But that death is only the beginning. An eminent producer for MGM commits suicide, but oddly doesn’t leave a note, and an earnest young detective keeps pointing out the inconsistencies in the cases. Craine doesn’t want to stir up trouble, but reluctantly finds himself investigating. He isn’t a likable figure, but over the course of the novel he finds a degree of redemption. The novel’s pace is slow, but not tedious. As expected of every noir thriller, there is “the woman” - in this case the actress Gale Goodwin who may save Craine or destroy him.
The Pictures is an enjoyable competently written novel written in a style that harkens back to pulp detective novels, and authors such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. If you like noir, The Pictures is for you.
I received a copy of The Pictures from the publisher and netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
Hollywood 1939. The year that The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind were made. Detective Craine has spent his life working as a studio fixer, whitewashing the misdemeanours and crimes committed by the studio players and stars. But now he’s trying to turn his back on that life following the recent death of his wife as he’s determined to be a better parent to his young son.
But then Craine’s services are called upon one last time. MGM need him to smooth over the press coverage of the suicide of one of their producers. And soon, what should be a straightforward case proves anything but when connections are made between it and a brutal murder across town. And that’s just the start of the story.
It’s only a matter of time before Craine must decide whether to follow orders, or to attempt to redeem a career of concealment by going in search of the ugly truth. It’s a choice he knows that cannot end well.