Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Friday, December 5, 2008

12 Best for 2008 - The Song Is You, by Megan Abbott (trade, $14)

[This is Nick's second pick.]

Two years ago, Hollywood starlet Jean Spangler disappeared, leaving only her purse and a mysterious note addressed to "Kirk" as evidence. Two years ago, Gil "Hop" Hopkins helped cover up the trails stemming from Jean Spangler's disappearance, including the hint that "Kirk" was none other than leading man Kirk Douglas, and turned Jean Spangler into a sexy, jaded young woman who sought out danger and found more than she could handle that night. For his efforts Hopkins was promoted. End of story? Not on your life.

Hop was there that night and knows more than most about what could have happened to Jean Spangler. And so was Iolene -- beautiful, black, and acutely aware of how vulnerable a combination that is in 1940s Hollywood. Iolene had asked Hop to stick around that night, sensing the danger she and Jean were in. And now she's asking questions, which force Hop to uncover old trails he himself had covered up and he doesn't even know why. Is he trying to solve a murder he's not certain was committed? Or is he trying to keep a murder hidden in order to satisfy his job description? And when Hop confesses in a drunken pity party to pretty, petite, freshman reporter Frannie Adair, he realizes he's not the only one who's going to be digging in the past. With Frannie Adair sniffing around, how can Hopkins learn the truth while keeping her in the dark, and more importantly, what will it mean if he succeeds?

In the vein of "The Black Dahlia" and "Hollywoodland," This Song Is You lays bare the 1940s Hollywood movie star machine as it grinds out its victims -- both physical and moral. And like the others, it is based on the true Hollywood scandal -- the disappearance of Jean Spangler. Written with impeccable style, The Song Is You is one of three noir masterpieces propelling Megan Abbott to the top of the heap. Fans of James Ellroy, James Cain, Jim Thompson -- but definitely not James Michener -- will adore Megan Abbott and her cast of Hollywood wannabe stars and cynical studio hatchetmen.

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