The Brink of Fame
by Irene Fleming
Cover Artist: Photograph from Image Vault
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312575441
Date: 16 August 2011 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In the spring of 1914, Emily Daggett Weiss travels to Flagstaff, Arizona to be with her husband Adam, a silent film producer. She learns he has lost Melpomene Moving Pictures Studios in a card game and has eloped with a voluptuous trollop -- actress Agnes Gelert. The destitute Emily is offered a job by the amorous Detective Holbert Bruns who works for Carl Laemmle, owner of the Independent Motion Picture (IMP) Company. Together, they travel to Hollywood to locate the missing Ross McHenry, a handsome, unscrupulous film star for IMP. He is later found bludgeoned to death near the Santa Monica Pier. Chief among the suspects are the members of a bizarre commune of religious fanatics known as the Theosophical Society whose beliefs encompass astral planes, sťances, and reincarnation.
In The Edge of Ruin, Irene Fleming painted a beautiful picture of New York City and Fort Lee, New Jersey, during the infancy of the silent motion picture industry. The dreaded Pinkertons were destroying anyone who competed against the movies produced by the Edison Manufacturing Company. Former showgirl Emily Weiss helps her selfish husband Adam establish and operate Melpomene Moving Pictures Studios and solve a murder. In The Brink of Fame, the author then takes her readers to a young HollyWEIRD where they will soon learn that it has been the land of fruits and nuts for over a hundred years. I shouldn't have been too surprised. Reading historical mysteries has taught me that the human soul has remained unchanged throughout the centuries.
Emily is the same lovable, wise-cracking headstrong woman she was in The Edge of Ruin. Instead of having a mental breakdown upon learning of Adam's infidelity and desire for a divorce, she is determined to become a film director. She is impatient to solve Ross McHenry's murder in order to commence filming Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines. During her investigation, she encounters beautiful young people who keep requesting screening tests, in lieu of money, in exchange for information. All the while, she fantasizes about the horrible things she'd like to do to Adam if she encounters him. With the help of three hilarious showgirls (Wanda Rose, Etta Sweet, and Gertrude Canty), whom she refers to as the Vine Street Irregulars, Emily searches the Land of Make Believe where finding the truth is nearly impossible.
The Brink of Fame is a short-length, fast-paced, easy-to-read historical mystery that is highly engaging. With its light-hearted humor, tender romance, and off-screen murders, it resembles a cozy. (However, some adult themes, specifically those dealing with Ross's sex life, may be inappropriate for young teens.)
Highest accolades to the author for making me feel that I was actually visiting a turn-of-the-century Hollywood. With her detailed descriptions of the Santa Monica Pier, Hollywood Boulevard, and Griffith Park, I yearned to travel there. The Brink of Fame is highly recommended for lovers of the silent film era and for lovers of historical mysteries in general. I definitely can't wait for the premiere of Irene Fleming's next novel in the Emily Daggett series.