Playing Dead: A Hollywood Mystery

Lindsay Maracotta, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-688-15867-5
Pregnant and wealthy cartoon animator Lucy Freers dons her crime-fighting hat and loads up on witty bon mots to solve a double murder in Tinseltown. Lucy's college friend and ex-lover Brandon McKenna, a documentary filmmaker whom she'd recently hired as her daughter's nanny, is found shot dead in a desolate Los Angeles canyon. When Lucy goes through his possessions, she realizes that Brandon, who'd only recently arrived in town, was traveling strangely light, as if he were on the run. She finds out why when she shows one of her promotional tapes to a group of network execs. Instead of the expected cute animals, the tape contains footage, apparently placed on it by Brandon, depicting the death of a casting agent as she is pushed down a long flight of stairs by a child. Shaken, Lucy consults a friend in the police department and learns that the agent's death was ruled accidental and the case closed. But then Lucy's daughter, Chloe, suggests that at her elementary school Brandon may have seen the child who pushed the agent to her death. Unable to convince the police that the killer is Chloe's classmate, Lucy decides to investigate the case herself, confronting obstacles as they arise with a sardonic sense of humor. Though Maracotta tends to overwrite (Lucy's heart races ""like a revved-up Ferrari""; she feels ""a hot shiver of lust"" whenever Brandon walks into the room), her characters--clawing parents, desperate actors, precocious children--are strong and believable, particularly the appealingly gruff Detective Terry Shoe, a holdover from Maracotta's previous novel, The Dead Celeb. Her narrative is high-spirited, and the suspense never falters as she skillfully angles suspicion from one stage brat to another. Agent, Barbara Lowenstein. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
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