A killer is reenacting the deaths of Hollywood's blond bombshells, and Valentino must stop him before it's too late in Loren D. Estleman's Brazen.
UCLA film archivist and sometime film detective Valentino doesn’t take friend and former actress Beata Limerick very seriously when she tells him that she quit acting because of the curse on blond actresses. Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Thelma Todd, Sharon Tate… they all had more fun, but none of them made it out of the business alive, and according to Limerick, she wasn’t taking any chances. But when Valentino finds Beata’s body staged the way Monroe was found, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” playing on repeat; he knows Limerick's death was no accident.
Police detective Ray Padilla doesn’t quite suspect Valentino is the killer, but he can’t let him off that easy. After all, the film archivist seems to be involved in more than his share of intrigue and death, which makes him a prime suspect. But Valentino is also a walking encyclopedia of Hollywood knowledge. When another washed-up actress is killed, the crime scene a copy of Thelma Todd’s last moments, Padilla enlists Valentino’s help in catching a serial killer of doomed blondes before he can strike again.
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In Estleman's entertaining fifth Valentino novel (after Shoot), film archivist Valentino uses his extensive knowledge of the minutiae of Hollywood history to help Lt. Ray Padilla of the LAPD track down a bizarrely motivated serial killer. It is Valentino who realizes that the first death, that of his friend Beata Limerick, is not an accident, and who recognizes that the murders are being staged to re-create the final moments of several blond-bombshell actresses of yesteryear who met untimely ends. The investigation is too often subordinate to snippets of information about iconic film stars and anecdotes of incidents from Hollywood's glamorous past. This makes the story less compelling as a standard mystery, as does the killer remaining offstage for most of the book. Still, many readers will find the setting and the extensive dipping into movie trivia great fun. The convoluted plot hustles along, and Valentino and Padilla are well-realized individuals, as are the secondary characters introduced along the way.