I’ve been lucky, reading several exceptional books in a row. This one was probably my favorite. It reminded me of a Sidney Sheldon or a Danielle Steele, only better written. Elderly movie legend Evelyn Hugo wants to leave an honest account of her life, only the woman she hires to write her memoirs is young, inexperienced and perplexed as to why she’s landed such a plum assignment. As Evelyn recounts her life, we learn of her early struggles, and the guy who helped her get away from an unhappy childhood. We follow her through her meteoric rise in Hollywood and the various men she marries to further her career. Throughout it all, however, there’s only one person Evelyn truly loves, a relationship forbidden by the constraints of society and stardom. As the story winds down, we learn the reason she chose the writer she did, a reason which makes the young woman question whether she can do the job despite a guaranteed multi-million dollar payday. Sometimes, it felt as if the author was checking boxes on a list of political correctness, but this is an enjoyable, can’t-put-down read which inspired me to seek out her other books and read them, too.
This book contains a series of events so intricately crafted, finely tuned and well meshed that the author gets the prize for best plotted mystery of all time. Varying threads come together beautifully in this story about police corruption and Hollywood sleaze in the 1950s. Three LAPD officers become embroiled in a case involving sex, double-dealing and murder following a shoot out at an all night coffee shop. Edmund Exley is a straight arrow who informs on fellow officers to get ahead. Wendell “Bud” White is an enforcer who hates men that abuse women. Jack Vincennes is more celebrity than cop as technical advisor on a television show called Badge of Honor, and provides tips to a scandal magazine. The three must set aside their differences to unravel a conspiracy that involves organized crime, corruption, heroin trafficking, pornography, prostitution, racism and old Hollywood. A tour de force in imagination and creativity.