Murder at San Simeon

Robert Lee Hall, Author St. Martin's Press $0 (343p) ISBN 978-0-312-01477-3
Set in William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon estate in 1934, this slow-moving mystery is overburdened with frenzied characters and a labyrinthine plot. Hearst and his mistress, Marion Davies, are about to launch one of their lavish weekend parties for the elite of Hollywood, but along with Louella Parsons, Jean Harlow, Charlie Chaplin and several dozen other luminaries, a few struggling Hollywood artists who are friends of Marion Davies and a group of more sinister hangers-on are also included. Among the more unsavory guests are Vincent X. Tashman, a penniless screenwriter desperate for a break in films, now being blackmailed for an incident in his violent past; Otto Perkins, a vengeful and malicious dwarf working for one of Hearst's newspaper rivals and anxious to ferret out and publicize any scandal about the journalist tycoon; Eddie McGuffin, a rabid and near-demented young communist who sees Hearst as the oppressor of all mankind and nervously waits for the right moment to murder him. Soon the isolated estate seethes with activity as guests plan amorous conquests, indulge in incautious snooping and ply their various schemes. When the body of Otto Perkins is found in the mansion's elevator, Hearst decides to keep the murder a secret and solve the mystery himself. Hall (Exit Sherlock Holmes) has written a tedious and overblown story. (February)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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