cover image Vamp: A Valentino Mystery

Vamp: A Valentino Mystery

Loren D. Estleman. Forge, $28.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-89247-8

Estleman artfully folds Hollywood history into a crackerjack whodunit in the seventh outing for film-loving L.A. detective Valentino (after 2020’s Indigo). Valentino, who’s spent years restoring a classic Hollywood movie house, is asked by his high school classmate, Dinky Schwartz, for help reviving a moribund drive-in theater. Valentino seeks assistance from another friend, theater designer Leo Kalishnikov, who agrees to provide some of the necessary funding on the condition that Valentino identify his blackmailer. Years earlier, Leo became a murder suspect in a crime of passion with dark sexual undertones—it was a case of mistaken identity, and another man was convicted, but Leo fled questioning, and now someone has dug up reports of the incident and faxed them to Leo, threatening his reputation. Valentino’s dance card gets even fuller when retired cop Jasper Grote claims to have access to reels of the legendary missing 1917 film Cleopatra, left behind by his grandfather, who held onto the reels after failing to deliver them to their proper storage space during a devastating tornado nearly 100 years ago. While chasing down the reels, Valentino finds a corpse in his car and sets out to discover if there’s a connection to Leo’s blackmailer. Estleman’s encyclopedic knowledge of the movie industry and gift for dialogue shine throughout. This gets two thumbs up. Agent:Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary Agency, Inc.(Nov.)