Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Song Is You - Megan Abbott

Like an episode of Cold Case, before you've even opened the book, the picture on the cover throws you back to the late 1940's Hollywood world of dashing movie stars, starry-eyed showgirls and the seedy backdrop of debauchery and violence. It may be too early for rock 'n' roll but there is definitely plenty of sex and drugs going on ! But this is the 1940's, the seedy side stays taboo, people stay (on the surface at least) relatively demure and the narrator follows suit - there may be plenty of horrific violence but its depiction is always understated, never graphic (which is sometimes far more powerful than the blood and guts approach).

The basic storyline given on the back of the book sounds pretty basic and predictable : "On October 7, 1949, dark-haired starlet Jean Spangler kissed her five-year-old daughter good-bye and left for a night shoot at a Hollywood studio. She was never seen again. The only clues left behind: a purse with a broken strap found in a nearby park, a cryptic note, and rumours about mobster boyfriends and ill-fated romances with movie stars. Drawing on this true-life missing person case, Megan Abbott's The Song Is You tells the story of Gil 'Hop' Hopkins, a smooth-talking Hollywood publicist whose career, despite his complicated personal life, is on the rise. It is 1951, two years after Jean's disappearance, and Hop finds himself unwillingly drawn into the still unsolved mystery by a friend of Jean who blames Hop for concealing details about Jean's whereabouts the night she vanished. Driven by guilt and fear of blackmail, Hop delves into the case himself, feverishly trying to stay one step ahead of an intrepid female reporter also chasing the story. Hop thought he'd seen it all, but what he uncovers both tantalizes and horrifies him as he plunges deeper and deeper into Hollywood's substratum in his attempt to uncover the truth."
Ho hum, read that kind of story before, nothing particularly inventive, but the story twists and turns and has more than a few surprises up its sleeve. It's sometimes hard to work out who are the bad guys and who are the victims, as nobody seems whiter than white and it certainly kept me guessing until the end. One thing I would have liked to have seen at the end of the book is a few details about the real story, as this apparently draws on a true-life missing person case - but then I guess that's what google's for !! It's a great read for crime/mystery fans and the 1940's Hollywood setting made a nice change.
Simon & Schuster UK, April 2009
Mass Market Paperback, 256 pages
ISBN-10: 1847393454
ISBN-13: 9781847393456
star rating : 4/5

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