Monday, May 24, 2010

Review of ALONE by Loren D. Estleman

ALONE is a Hollywood novel, but it's not a Hollywood novel at the same time. There are no actors, no movies sets or filming. Valentino is a film detective, an archivist who searches out and tries to restore old films. Attending a Hollywood costume party as Ramon Novarro to his girlfriend's Greta Garbo, Valentino is met with an offer he doesn't want to refuse. The reclusive host of the party Matthew Rankin's wife was a good friend of Garbo and he claims he has a unique film of Garbo before she became a star. He will trade it for a favor. The favor is stop Rankin's personal assistant from continuing his blackmail. Aker, the assistant, claims he has a letter from Rankin's dead wife claiming she and Garbo were lovers. Rankin will give Valentino the lost film if he will find something on Akers to stop him. But before this can happen, Akers is killed -- by Rankin, who claims self-defense.

A scruffy Beverly Hills detective, reminiscent of Columbo, investigates. He's suspicious of the so called self-defense claim and Rankin is arrested for the crime of murder. Valentino is drawn in to prove Rankin innocent.

The story isn't fast paced but it held my interest all the way through. There is a slew of interesting secondary characters, including Valentino's girlfriend, a forensic examiner for the LAPD, his on again, off again roommate and a slimy building inspector, trying to thwart Valentino's desire to rebuild the Oracle Theater to its former glory, and show the old films he's been restoring.

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