Death in Her Face
by Sheila York
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432826208
Date: 19 September 2012
Death in Her Face, Sheila York's latest Lauren Atwill mystery, brings Lauren back to postwar Hollywood and Marathon Pictures. A rising star, Mala Demara has disappeared and her boyfriend turns up dead. The search for the woman uncovers other issues that place Lauren and her boyfriend, private investigator, Peter Winslow, as well as others in danger. FBI agents, local police, the head of Marathon Pictures security, and mobsters stumble over one another as they seek the killer of two men.
Despite the stated late Forties period, much of the novel reads more like Thirties Hollywood and the past heyday of novelists as writers. Booze flows freely and bimbos dominate the movie industry with the studio executives ruling all. Image is king. Mob links are hinted at throughout Hollywood and its institutions.
Lauren returns to Hollywood with Peter Winslow. He has been hired to find the missing actress. She goes along to rewrite the film script featuring the missing star in case they need to bring in another actress. Her friend, novelist Bill Linden, wrote the original script, but had problems with the director so Lauren is needed for the rewrites.
The actress' dead boyfriend, Mickey Triton, is a former champion fighter with mob associates. Julie Scarza, the mob head, wants Mickey's killer and threatens Peter and Lauren, insisting they locate and name that murderer. At the same time, Marathon Pictures fears the publicity of Mala's involvement would destroy her career so they are frantic to locate her before members of the press do.
While investigating, past secrets haunt Lauren and others. Peter is jealous of Bill until Lauren reveals her past and her many regrets. The secret also explains her estrangement from her parents.
The missing actress may remind some of Hedy Lamarr, although there are enough differences to belie that. Other than a woman as the investigator and solver of the crimes, the story resembles the classic noir detective stories. She even gets threatened and physically attacked. York provides a good twist at the end.
The novel may be a little hard-edged for some cozy readers and some of the characters are far from likeable. However, those fascinated by the old Hollywood will find much to enjoy.