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Old pro Kaminsky serves up his usual amiable blend of nostalgia, humor, eccentricity and a mystery built around a celebrity (typically a film star) in his 23rd book to feature PI Toby Peters (after 2002's To Catch a Spy). While his long career hasn't been lucrative, it has allowed Toby to assemble a wealth of unusual friends, including dentist Sheldon Minck. Sheldon gets in over his head when he takes up with a strange survivalist group and, apparently, slays his wife with either a well-aimed or an errant crossbow bolt. Sheldon has the weapon and the motive, and the police have Sheldon and a witness who is none other than Joan Crawford. Getting Sheldon out of jail and keeping the actress out of the news become Toby's twin priorities. Toby still lives at Irene Plaut's boarding house and struggles with his relations with his brother, Phil. Kaminsky fashions the character of his guest star from bits and pieces of her public and private personas so that Crawford appears both familiar and new. While the mystery as such may be routine, details of the time (1944), from Toby's car (a Crosley) to the radio shows (The Aldrich Family) to the projected price of a postwar car ($900 for most, as much as $1,400 for a "luxury" model), will bring smiles of recognition to older readers.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* A woman named Mildred is pierced by a bolt from a crossbow in a public park; Joan Crawford, out on an errand before she begins filming Mildred Pierce, witnesses the killing. So, Kaminski's punny title for the twenty-third Toby Peters mystery perfectly captures the ridiculous (in the best sense of the term) cross-cutting between detection and movie lore that has long been the hallmark of this series. Peters' career as an ex-cop-current private eye spans a fascinating chunk of Hollywood movie history, from the Depression--Murder on the Yellow Brick Road (1977), in which Peters took on the case of an allegedly murderous Munchkin--into World War II. Now, it's June 1944. Toby is still figuring out the ration points for his boardinghouse landlady and renting office space from the dentist Sheldon Minck. It's Minck who's in trouble, big time, because he admits shooting the crossbow that killed his wife but insists it was another of his many klutzy accidents. Peters is working for both Minck, who hires him to help prove his innocence, and Joan Crawford, who hires him to keep her name out of the papers. As Peters investigates, he is pulled into a bizarre world of survivalists who want Minck dead and, once again, into the bizarre world of Hollywood infighting. Kaminsky stands out as a subtle historian, unobtrusively but entertainingly weaving into the story itself what people were wearing, eating, driving, and listening to on the radio. A page-turning romp. Connie Fletcher
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