Formats available: ebook
Genre: historical mystery
Series: Jake and Laura #2
Length: 266 pages
Publisher: Random House Alibi
Date Released: January 6, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
Just arrived from New York, Broadway actress Laura Wilson is slated to star in Hollywood’s newest screwball comedy. At her side, of course, is Jake Donovan, under pressure to write his next mystery novel. But peace and quiet are not to be had when an all-too-real murder plot intrudes: After a glitzy party, the son of a studio honcho is discovered dead from a gunshot wound. And since Jake exchanged words with the hothead just hours before his death, the bestselling author becomes the LAPD’s prime suspect.
In 1930s Tinseltown, anything goes. Proving his innocence won’t be easy in a town where sex, seduction, and naked power run rampant. With gossip columnist Louella Parsons dead-set on publicizing the charges against him, Jake has no choice but to do what everyone else does in the City of Angels: act like someone else. Blackie Doyle, the tough-talking, fist-swinging, womanizing hero from Jake’s novels wouldn’t pull any punches until he exposed the real killer—nor will Jake, to keep the role of a lifetime from being his last.
The Jake & Laura series is tremendously fun, especially if you like 20th century historical mysteries, and/or if you like stories where the fictional creations interact with real people.
The thing about using the 20th century as a setting for any type of historical fiction is that even if the reader doesn’t personally remember the era, it is close enough in time that we knew people who did, or at least that some of the icons of the time live in the public consciousness. We feel that we are familiar with the ancillary characters, even if we don’t know the details. And that we associate certain people with certain eras helps fix the story in time in a way that bare historical details may not.
In this particular case, Jake & Laura go to Hollywood in the relatively early days of the “Talkies”. The Jazz Singer, the first feature film presented as a talkie, premiered in 1927. Hollywood was still feeling the echoes, as acting careers, producers, directors and studios were still suffering the fallout. The Great Depression, which brought record numbers of viewers to theaters for cheap, escapist entertainment, also made it difficult for studios to pay back their loans on the expensive new equipment needed for sound.
Jake and Laura have arrived at a Hollywood in the midst of change, but still the Hollywood that is now legend, where starlets were discovered at street-corner diners, and speakeasies catered to the rich and/or famous. It was also the early days of the “studio system” where stars and wannabees signed up to have their public life controlled by the studios’ star-making publicity machine.
Laura is a successful Broadway actress, but she has come to Hollywood to star in a screwball comedy as the ingenue. It’s a role that will make her career in movies, if the picture ever gets made. But Laura is supposed to be the star, and Jake Donovan is supposed to hang around and finish his latest novel. The trip is also a test of their recently rekindled relationship.
Nothing works out the way it is supposed to.
Jake has been in Hollywood before, but the last time he was in LA, it was when he was working as a Pinkerton with Dashiell Hammett. Jake, like Hammett, is a detective-turned-novelist, and Hammett has been singing his praises on both fronts. So when Laura’s picture needs some tightening in the screenwriting, Jake is drafted against his will. As usual, he’s protecting Laura, and equally usually, he doesn’t tell her why he is suddenly involved in something she didn’t want him near.
Then there’s a death (of course there is) and Jake is in it up to his neck. He may not be guilty, but he certainly looks guilty. He needs to find the real killer before the scandal murders his writing career, and more importantly, Laura’s big chance in Hollywood.
Because in the Depression, Jake knows that they are only one or two paychecks away from disaster. Unless he ends up in prison, which will be more disaster than anyone can handle.
Escape Rating B+: The title, of course, is meant to recall the famous quote, “All that glitters is not gold”. Most of what glitters in Hollywood is tinsel, although it could equally be said to be pyrite, or “fool’s gold”. The point is that under all the glitter, there is a lot of fakery. Also a lot of people chase the gold of Hollywood, only to discover that the metal they mined isn’t gold after all.
The other version of this saying is also true, “All that is gold does not glitter”. Jake and Laura, their relationship and their core selves, is gold and true, even if they do suffer some knocks along the way. But then, real gold is a relatively soft metal, and it’s easy to dent or shape, yet it is resistant to corrosion, as, in the end, are Jake and Laura.
While the mystery in this story turns out to be a relatively simple case of “Who Benefits?” there are plenty of red herrings to steer Jake off course and keep the reader entertained. You are pretty sure who it has to be, but it takes a convoluted time for the evidence to be revealed (and/or discredited).
One of the fun things about this series is the way that Laura and Jake interact with the luminaries of Hollywood in the 1930s. Jake knew Dashiell Hammett, the author of The Thin Man books, which became a movie series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. William Powell appears as an important secondary character in All The Glitters. This is made even more fun (and slightly recursive) that Jake and Laura are intended to be a slightly more down to earth Nick and Nora Charles. (Hammett modeled Nick and Nora on himself and his lover Lillian Hellman)
The Thin Man series is also a comedy of manners hidden in a mystery (and vice versa) and so are the Jake and Laura stories. Art imitates life imitates art imitates life, with just as terrific results as the first book in this series, The Yankee Club (reviewed here). You don’t have to read Yankee Club in order to enjoy All That Glitters, but it’s probably just that much more fun if you do.
Michael and TLC Book Tours are giving away a $25 Gift Card plus a copy of the first book in the Jake and Laura series, The Yankee Club, to one lucky winner.