Thursday, February 04, 2021

Valentino Will Die by Donis Casey

 
First Line: A rose.
 
Bianca LaBelle and Rudolph Valentino have been friends for years, and since they are the two biggest box office draws inside (and outside) Hollywood, it's a natural for them to appear in a film together. It's a steamy romance called Grand Obsession, and one night while having dinner at Bianca's Beverly Hills estate, Valentino confesses that he's been receiving death threats.
 
In a matter of days, filming comes to an abrupt halt when Rudy falls deathly ill. Has he been poisoned? As he lays dying, Bianca promises him that she will find out who's responsible. After all, she can enlist the aid of private detective Ted Oliver... and she's inherited her investigative skills from her mother.
 
~
 
As luck would have it, I've had the pleasure of reading back-to-back two historical mysteries set in Hollywood. Donis Casey's second Bianca Dangereuse mystery, Valentino Will Die, is set in the Silent Movie Era and involves the legendary Rudolph Valentino himself. 
 
In reality, film star Bianca LaBelle, the heroine of the wildly popular Bianca Dangereuse film series, is Blanche Tucker, daughter of farm woman Alafair Tucker who was last seen in Forty Dead Men. Living on a farm outside tiny Boynton, Oklahoma, was a fate worse than death for teenage Blanche, so she ran away from home and barely managed to land on her feet in Hollywood. (Readers can find out how that happened in The Wrong Girl.) As much as I enjoy this new series, I'm still fond of Alafair, and Casey cannily includes little clues as to how Bianca's family is doing.

The mystery in Valentino Will Die is a good one, and so is the setting. While readers are trying to guess who's got it in for the world's number one heartthrob, they see a fresh-from-Broadway young Hungarian named Bela Lugosi and get to attend swanky parties. Los Angeles mob figures also make their deadly presence known. Amidst the investigating, there are some laughs when Douglas Fairbanks bemoans being typecast, and Bianca learns how difficult it is to make "a stealthy escape from a crowded room when you're famous." But perhaps the biggest laugh of all came from the description of Bianca's beloved dog, Jack Dempsey, a canine that "could be part prairie dog and part something else. Maybe a mongoose. Or a wig." I hope the little guy makes more appearances in future books.
 
I enjoy Casey's handling of historical figures, and while the mystery is deadly serious, she has a light touch that's reminiscent of those silent Perils of Pauline-type serial thrillers. Want to know what's real and what's not? Everything's listed at the back of the book. In the mood for a good mystery to solve? Pick up a copy of Valentino Will Die (and I'm not even going to talk about the ending). I can't wait to find out what Bianca gets up to next!
 

Valentino Will Die by Donis Casey
eISBN: 9781464213526
Poisoned Pen Press © 2021
eBook, 208 pages

Historical Mystery, #2 Bianca Dangereuse mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley

12 comments:

  1. I could see myself enjoying this one a lot, Cathy. Old Hollywood can be really interesting as a context, and right now, I'm not in the mood for a lot of grit and violence. I may have to check this out.

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  2. I think I might enjoy this series. The setting and characters sound unique.

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    1. I've often thought Old Hollywood was a ripe setting for mysteries, so I'm glad to see writers taking advantage of it.

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  3. I was wondering how much of the Valentino novel was real, etc. Glad to see it's all laid out at the end of the novel because it really irks me when writers fail to do that.

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    1. Handling historical figures can be tricky, so I, too, appreciate it when writers let us take a look into their research.

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  4. I've got THE WRONG GIRL on my shelf and had been waiting to read it until Donis had this second book out. Now seems to be the time. I'm torn in that Alafair is not the main sleuth, but I'm happy to hear that we get some tidbits about life back in Oklahoma. Wonder if my library has this new one...

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  5. I don't know about old Hollywood as the setting, but I like a good mystery and Jack Dempsey. Love it.
    Called a bookstore in Baltimore with a photo of its cats on the website. One cat's name is Upton Sinclair.
    So this review reminds me to read Forty Dead Men or another of Casey's Oklahoma series. Thanks for reminding me.

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  6. Yes! I liked The Wrong Girl and need to catch up!

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