The Last Embrace, Denise Hamilton, Scribner, 2008, 378 pp
After five mystery novels set in contemporary Los Angeles, known as the Eve Diamond series, Denise Hamilton has written a noir crime novel set in 1940s Hollywood. Lily Kessler, former OSS spy, returns to her hometown to investigate the disappearance of her late fiance's sister Kitty, who had been a budding movie star.
Not surprisingly, Kitty turns up murdered under the Hollywood sign. In a milieu of competitive starlets, gangsters, special effects people and LA's homicide division, Lily relentlessly pursues all possible leads and finally gets her man. She also gets a new lover who, in true Denise Hamilton style, may be a good guy or may be an enemy.
This is a good long satisfying read, though I hate it when the killer turns out to be someone you've hardly heard of throughout the book. But the pleasure for me in reading a mystery is not so much finding out who done it as it is participating in the investigation.
The best aspects of The Last Embrace are the sights and scenes of Los Angeles from 60 years ago. Having now read hundreds of books from the 1940s in My Big Fat Reading Project, this one fit right in. I did not live in LA then, but it is my city now and I love reading about its past.
(The Last Embrace is available on the shelf in paperback signed copies at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)