cover image THE TICKET OUT


Helen Knode, . . Harcourt, $24 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-15-100184-2

Film critic Ann Whitehead has a problem. She doesn't find Tom Cruise sexy. She's bored by Harry Potter. She even can't get excited about the new David Lynch movie. The heroine of Knode's debut crime novel is simply fed up with her job and the Los Angeles alternative weekly paper where she works. But there's no quicker cure for ennui than finding a gorgeous blonde corpse in your bathtub. Ann stumbles on the murdered body of film school grad Greta Maria Stenholm in the bathroom of her pool house (where she lives in exchange for minor caretaking of the mansion next door) and becomes obsessed with the case. Though she's stymied in her investigation by Lockwood, a sexy LAPD detective with a shady past, she discovers a second case of murder, blackmail and coverup. This one is from 1944, and it's the subject of a script that Greta had been working on when she died. Knode, an ex-film critic for the L.A. Weekly, juxtaposes Hollywood's golden age and today's entertainment industry, exploring how the city has used and abused the ambitious, beautiful women who flock there. She offers a juicy portrait of contemporary L.A. in which Hollywood's elite kill one another for script ideas and follow secret passages from MGM to a high-end whorehouse. Some of these images feel overly familiar; this is a novel in which the HUAC committee lists resurface and still have currency. Still, Knode's clever, sophisticated plotting packs a punch. L.A. noir fans—and Hollywood buffs—will be rapt. (Jan.)

Forecast:Knode's husband is James Ellroy, which won't hurt in the publicity department. An eight-city author tour and a strong ad campaign will also grab attention for this promising debut.