Friday, February 6, 2009

Devil's Garden-Ace Atkins

Devil's Garden
Ace Atkins
Putnam, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399155369

In 1921, following a wild party at a San Francisco hotel, silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle is arrested for the alleged murder of actress Virginia Rappe. The evidence is circumstantial at best, but William Randolph Hearst using his colossal newspaper kingdom assaults the actor accusing him of suffocating the poor starlet with his humongous weight.

Pinkerton private investigator Sam Dashiell Hammett investigates the case for the defense. He finds at best a sloppy official inquiry by SFPD and an even more questionable autopsy; as if everyone feared the wrath of Hearst. Rightfully so, as the newspaper mogul keeps up the tirade until Arbuckle is condemned in public and his comedic movie career buried under innuendos and disinformation. Hammett finds all sorts of Hollywood scandals, but none as perverse as Hearst's unethical efforts that the sleuth believes is to save the movie career of his mistress Marian Davies at the expense of Arbuckle.

Ace Atkins’ third historical mystery (see WHITE SHADOW and WICKED CITY) is a terrific silent movie era noir focusing on the notorious Arbuckle murder case. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action, loaded with real persona, and captures the era especially how influential the newspapers (specifically Hearst) as well as anyone since Citizen Caine.

Harriet Klausner