Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Hollywood Buzz by Margit Liesche

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Hollywood Buzz by Margit Liesche. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Hollywood Buzz by Margit Liesche

by
A Pucci Lewis Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-579-8 (1590585798)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-579-5 (9781590585795)
Publication Date: March 2009
List Price: $24.95

Review: Pucci Lewis, a Women's Air Force Service Pilot, is on an incredibly exciting assignment, off to Hollywood to make a documentary on the work of the WASPs during World War II in Hollywood Buzz, the second mystery in this series by Margit Liesche.

For the most part, Pucci is assigned to ferrying fighter planes, though she recently was on an undercover job in Detroit. The operation was a success but the traitor, a double agent code-named Cardillac, escaped. Her post this time is in Hollywood to replace her friend and sister WASP Frankie. Frankie’s plane, believed to be sabotaged, forced her to go down in flames. Maybe with her investigative skills Pucci will be able to seek out the person or persons who sabotaged the plane. Frankie now lies badly burned and in a coma at the local hospital. Pucci ends up staying at the home the Dunns, friends of her boss, who own a real Beverly Hills mansion. These friends, however, mysteriously up and leave on a moments notice, although no one knows where they go. It could be to Florida, Washington or Cairo. Ilke Maki, their maid and wannabe starlet, is the “niece” of Bela Lugosi, a frequent visitor to the mansion. Ilke, a Gypsy, is a refugee from Hungary and says she has God-given insights and many stories to tell. Would these stories have anything to do with the war effort, either on Hitler’s side or America’s side? The government and the Hollywood producers are creating a documentary that will be informative as well as compelling in order to support patriotism and show that women can be just efficient in the war effort as men.

While going to the studios to talk about the filming of the planes, Pucci finds incriminating cans containing film of propaganda extolling Hitler’s Nazism. She also finds the same type containers in the home of the Dunns. Does this mean that the Dunns are double agents? When a well-known filmmaker is killed, Pucci realizes that enemies are right there in the studio. One of the producers wants to show a film of Frankie’s burning crash, against the wishes of Pucci. She thinks it will show that women cannot control planes as well as men and how can that help the war effort? Some of the writers and aides have drug problems making their tongues loose. Pucci takes advantage of this and learns a lot from one drugged-out writer who seems to know something about Frankie’s plane. When she gets an earring shaped like a swastika in the bottom of her tea cup, she knows the enemy is within the walls of the sound stages, and that now, her life, too, is in danger. Bravely she takes a plane up only to find it losing power. Will she go down in flames too? Has Cardillac returned? If so, will Pucci be able to capture her this time?

Hollywood Buzz is a delightfully entertaining mystery, especially for those readers who remember the great Hollywood stars of the 1940s. The author tells of the making of the Victory Shorts starring soldier/actors Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Ronald Reagan, and many others. Pucci seems to interact with these stars on a daily basis during her investigation. But rather than detract from the story, they enhance it by injecting a realism that brings the plot alive. Hollywood Buzz is a wonderful mystery and readers will look forward to seeing Pucci Lewis in her next adventure.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Hollywood Buzz and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Pucci Lewis was used to ferrying fighter planes and undercover work. But it’s the dark hours of WWII, and Hollywood’s biggest stars, studio moguls, and Washington bureaucrats are working hand-in-glove to merge entertainment and propaganda. Pucci has been dispatched to the First Motion Picture Unit, where a make-or-break documentary on the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) is underway.

Pucci is stepping in for a sister-WASP, now hospitalized in critical condition after an all-too-deliberate plane crash. But who’s the saboteur? Why the cover-up? Pucci is drawn into a high-profile homicide. A big-name director has been murdered, possibly by Nazi operatives. Military intelligence wants Pucci to learn what she can from her inside position.

Bela Lugosi is a frequent visitor to the Beverly Hills mansion where Pucci is temporarily billeted. His “niece,” a rising starlet and also the housekeeper, has a history with the Hungarian resistance. But Pucci doesn’t trust the girl.

Can Pucci steadfastly maneuver through movie land and its narcissistic denizens, finally unraveling the uncertainties to prove she has the right stuff?

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