cover image Alive! A Valentino Mystery

Alive! A Valentino Mystery

Loren D. Estleman. Forge, $24.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7653-3331-5

An intriguing McGuffin drives Shamus-winner Estleman’s third mystery featuring U.C.L.A. film consultant Valentino (after 2009’s Alone). Word reaches Valentino that a print may exist of Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein’s monster, a role Lugosi rejected, but that made Karloff’s career in the classic 1931 film. The scenes showing Lugosi as the monster may be related to the death of Valentino’s estranged friend, alcoholic B-list action actor Craig Hunter, whose repeated calls for help Valentino does his best to ignore. When Hunter is beaten to death after another such call again falls on deaf ears, Valentino feels heartsick. The precise mode of the killing, which included the breaking of both arms above the elbows, points to an L.A. mobster, but the mobster’s reason for taking out a hit on Hunter is obscure. Fascinating tidbits of Hollywood lore throughout more than compensate for the over-the-top ending. Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary Agency. (Apr.)