Monday, June 5, 2017

Cast the First Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery by James W. Ziskin

Cast the First Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery #5.  James W. Ziskin. Prometheus Books. June 2017. 290 pp. ISBN #: 9781633882812.

Ellie Stone, a newspaper journalist from the unknown town of New Holland, gets the chance to travel to Hollywood, California to interview Tony Eberle, formerly also of New Holland, who is about to star in his first movie.  Anyone who has met Tony admits he is definite “eye candy” who, if he has the goods on acting, is about to become a big Hollywood star. The problem is – he never showed up the first day of rehearsals.  The fury of both actors and staff is chaotic and Ellie Stone wonders if she’s got a bigger story here than she first thought. 

Ellie is definitely a tireless reporter as she sets about finding the MIA actor, only to find that his producer is also missing and a few days later is found dead.  No spoilers here!  The remainder of the novel focuses on the people who knew Tony and his producer.  At first they’re not willing to help Ellie one iota until she lies and says she knows where he is.  Then they’re all over her to cooperate and Ellie plays this little lie for all it’s worth.

The bottom line is that Hollywood is full of panderers in the 1960s, willing to do anything for a “moment in the sun” of stardom, be it top actor or extra.  There are rare people in this novel who do have good intentions and act with integrity, but they are the exception and not the norm.  The characters of the norm are too busy having a good, no – great time drinking, drugging and having sex with adults and – Oh No!
Ellie makes a clever sleuth and she’s got a wacky, always entertaining sense of humor that at times saves this story from its repetitive cycles of discovery, where Ellie often as to repeat former trips and conversations to get ahead one step at a time.

As an aside, film buffs will love the references and recommendations of actors, actresses, and films from the 1950s and 1960s.

The outcome is not what you expect but does differ from the normal Hollywood story ending!  Nicely crafted mystery, James W. Ziskin!

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