This sixth novel in the Scott Elliott mystery series, by Shamus-winning Faherty, is another engaging, wellplotted recreation of Hollywood movie culture during the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s.His very likeable P.I., Scott Elliott , knows Hollywood and LosAngeles history —and many of its secrets—very well. For movie fans especially, this mystery is a winner.
In Play a Cold Hand, it’s 1974, and Elliott, an ex- WWII vet and an ex-contract actor, had started working for Paddy Maguire, owner of Hollywood Security, after his film career went kaput. But, now, in the early 70’s Paddy has retired and sold his business to AIM, where Elliot still works, keeping starlets, producers etc out of trouble.Then, one night, the cops call Elliott to identify a body.Maguire has been shot. Shaken, Elliott vows to find the killer.After all, Maguire had been his friend and mentor, though he had also been very secretive.But Elliott finds nothing but dead ends, so his boss assigns him a new case, helping Amos Decker.
Decker, a drugged-out, wunderkind producer, needs research on an, old, possibly mythical scam called the Kansas City Shuffle, which may have involved Ted ( Moose) Mariutti , a sleazy producer who died under mysterious circumstances.Decker figures Elliott knows about most of the cover-ups. However, Elliott may discover darker secrets than he is expecting.
The Hollywood background, with numerous allusions to older noir movies and famous stars we all know, is a delightful setting that film aficionados especially should enjoy. And any reader can enjoy the fascinating tidbits about the 1940’s movie scene, such as Louella Parson’s secret hideaway, and the WWII home front impact on Los Angeles..Those meat and gas ration coupons were a “real” hardship for this home town crowd.
The setting will be a draw for many. However, in addition to the fun movie trivia, Elliott is a really likeable detective who often goes outside the traditional P.I. pattern. Gibsons are his drink of choice. He appreciates jazz, but he does comment he wants the pianist to know what both hands are doing. Estranged from his wife, he often thinks of her…and wants her back. Fortunately, his daughter is still close to him.And he treasures the MIA bracelet he wears for his son Billy. He carries a gun, but he has to admit he doesn’t recover from fights as quickly as he once did. Often, P.I.’s are considered loners, but Elliott has collected many friends/contacts and seems at ease with people generally.
The supporting characters are developed enough to hold my interest. Two sisters who chose different paths seem believable and add suspense. I liked the trophy wife who knows how to keep her life private. The quiet, loyal cleaning woman was an intriguing person. There’s a sleazy P.I. that is sharper than Elliott realizes. These characters seem real, and I think Faherty makes readers understand even his perps and victims.
Faherty writes smoothly, with a cast of credible characters, a loving, knowledgeable recreation of Hollywood, and amusing asides.His many plot strands eventually all fit together very nicely with little excess verbiage (only 178 pages) An engrossing read.