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Mystery author #22: Stuart M. Kaminsky

Title: Murder on the Yellow Brick Road
Series detective: Toby Peters
No. in series: 2
Year of publication: 1978
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Private detective
Setting & time: Hollywood, 1940s
Number of murders: 3
Some themes: Fame, film-making, dwarfs

Story: Tough Los Angeles P.I. Toby Peters gets a frantic call from Judy Garland, who has received a mysterious phone-call that directed her to the Wizard of Oz set where she found a murdered dwarf in a Munchkin costume. It's been a year since the movie was made, but the set is still being used for publicity shots, and the dead Munchkin was one of the actors who sometimes posed for shots with visitors to the studio. M.G.M. wants the murder kept quiet, and Toby is hired to do some investigating, which leads him into the world of the little people and from there in some rather unexpected directions before he finally solves the mystery. None other than Raymond Chandler assists him in the investigation.

Review: This is the first hard-boiled mystery I read for the challenge. While some of the tales I have read have been pretty dark, none has had that special narrative style that marks the hard-boiled story. Although it is undoubtedly hard-boiled, it is not one of those seriously tough, humourless stories, but a light-hearted and at time wryly humorous one with a protagonist who doesn't take himself too seriously, and who is surrounded by quirky characters of all sorts. Kaminsky has a talent for drawing up interesting characters, and there are several in this book, including characters my research tells me are regulars in the series.

I think I wrote about my unease when reading fiction about real people in an essay on the original 52 Books blog, ages ago. Well, this book features a bunch of them (Judy Garland, Louis B. Mayer, Clark Gable, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Rooney) but fortunately Kaminsky has not made them behave in any kind of unexpected way (from what I know of them), so it didn't bother me at all.

Rating: Loved it. Want more. 4+ stars.

Author review once I've read some more.


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