Bit Player by Janet Dawson.*
Browsing in a Hollywood memorabilia shop, PI Jeri Howard comes across aposter that reminds her of her paternal grandmother, Jerusha Layne
Howard who had been a bit player in the movies before her marriage.
The elderly man behind the counter of a Hollywood memorabilia shop tells
PI Jeri Howard that her paternal grandmother and namesake Jerusha Layne
Howard, once a bit player in the movies, had been involved in the
investigation of the murder of a British actor named Ralph Tarrant. He
didn't specify what Jerusha's role was, but the comment is enough to
pique Jeri's curiosity.
contacts her elderly Aunt Dulcie, in the hope that Jerusha's sister
might remember something, and is thrilled to learn that Dulcie has saved
the letters she received from Jerusha during those years. Reading
them, Jeri finds out that her grandmother had shared a house with three
other young actresses, and that one of them had dated Tarrant.
While searching for background information about the old man in the
memorabilia store, Jeri stumbles onto the murder of a woman who
collected Hollywood memorabilia, who had refused to sell any of her
items to the store. When another collector is killed a few weeks later,
Jeri begins to wonder if the present-day murders might be related to
the decades-old case involving Jerusha. As Jeri investigates, the
reader learns along with her many real details about the early days of
the movie industry.
Dawson's first Jeri Howard novel since A Killing at the Track(2000),
is a riveting mystery, at once historical and contemporary, for which
she has obviously done deep and thorough research into the Golden Age of
Janet Dawson is a long-time member of Mystery Writers of America, serving
as MWA NorCal president and chair of the Edgar Allan Poe awards. She
also belongs to Sisters in Crime and Women Writing the West. Bit Player is nominated for the Golden Nugget Award, a special Left Coast Crime 2012 award for best mystery novel set in California.
*FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher, who sent me a copy of the book for review purposes.