An avid reader, Stephen's knowledge of Crime Fiction is fairly extensive, with The Golden Age is his greatest interest.
Los Angeles and Hollywood are the setting for this riveting and absorbing hardboiled detective murder.
The year is 1939 probably one of the greatest years in the history of film making. The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Huckleberry Finn and Gone with the Wind were all big box office hits of this year. MGM was one of the biggest of the studios led by Louis B Meyer they promised cinema-goers the stars in fact they say that MGM promised more stars than there were in the heavens. They offered glamour to the masses.
However, despite the glamorous lifestyles Hollywood was feeling the pinch as was the rest of the US all still reeling under the effects of the Great Depression with film studios going out of business and others struggling under massive debts. In the city there are still queues on streets for food hand-outs. The contrast could not be greater than between ‘the haves’ of the golden glowing film studios and ‘the have nots’ of the dark, dirty streets downtown.
Into this arena comes Detective Jonathan Craine a mentally vulnerable individual returning to his job in the LAPD from New York where he had bolted after his wife, film star Celia Raymond, committed suicide. Craine is returning to many bad memories and to his young son, Michael a nine year old. It was Michael who found the body of his mother dead in the bath. Soon afterwards Craine left Hollywood for New York leaving his son in a Catholic boarding school to cope alone.
Craine doesn't want to take up his old post clearing up crime associated with the studios making sure there's little or no bad publicity for them. He's had too much of the influence of the film industry. But, as it is integral to L.A's prosperity, City Hall is keen to do all it can for the studios and especially for their reputation.
On routine duties Craine attends a particularly horrific murder of a young woman in an upmarket neighborhood; he soon clears up the case to his and his chief's satisfaction pinning the crime on a homeless young black man found with some stolen property. But, he is soon mixed up with the studios again when a MGM producer working on The Wizard of Oz is found hanging in his study. His boss wants him on the case. The studio brings with it all the feelings of loss and Craine struggles to remain in control. Since being left at the boarding school Michael has become mute speaking to no one, not even his father can get a word from him.
As Craine investigates the suicide of the producer with pressure from above to wrap it up quickly; his assistant Detective Patrick O'Neill begins to question their view of the death forcing Craine to delve deeper than he wishes to. Are there connections between this death and that of the girl, to the studios and to organized crime syndicates? Having to interview the film star wife of the deceased he realizes he is falling for her. As a still grieving widower Craine struggles with his feelings while trying to hold the investigation together and try to break through his son's self-imposed isolation.
This is a narrative that has you hooked from the beginning, there are plenty of shoot outs with hired killers and mobsters to keep the heart racing as well as more emotional moments that draw you in. Mr. Bolton is a practiced hand at keeping the tension high and the action flowing. It is no coincidence that you are put in mind of some of the greats of hardboiled writing with this first-rate vibrant story.