Loren D. Estleman
Forge, May 2008, $23.95
Calling himself the “Film Detective” Valentino earns a living as film archivist at UCLA. He considers buying the Oracle, a dilapidated theatre that back in the 1920s was a showcase. However, as he inspects the crumbling edifice, he finds several reels of Erich von Stroheim’s classic epic, Greed; though long lost to the ravages of time, stupidity, and avarice.
However, his discovery takes a setback when Valentino also uncovers a skeleton. He would prefer to ignore the old bones and run off with the film, but his conscience will not allow Valentino to do so. He calls the cops informing them of the human remains, but remains silent re the reels out of fear the evidence takers will damage the valuable work, which would put his conscience in suicide mode.
This is an entertaining Hollywood mystery as the lead character hides evidence from the police rationalizing why he did it. The cold case investigation is fun to follow as the Film Detective tracks cinematic clues one frame at a time; while also rationalizing again why he is making inquiries. Apparently Valentino has appeared in short stories, but in his novel debut he seems complete and able to hold together an enjoyable somewhat movie fun fluffy whodunit.