The Hollywood Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I eagerly await each new entry in the Maggie Hope series.
This time, Maggie has been asked to come to Hollywood. Her former love interest, John Sterling, is there working for Walt Disney on “Victory Through Air Power” … and his fiancée, Gloria Hutton has been found dead in the pool at the Garden of Allah apartment building. John believes that Maggie is the only person who can figure out what really happened, since the police aren’t talking.
On top of that, Maggie’s ballerina friend Sarah is in Hollywood making a movie … so the two friends are reunited.
The book not only concerns finding out about the murder case, but also about race relations in Los Angeles. The book starts out in 1943, in the midst of the so-called Zoot Suit Riots. We see not only the casual racism (a famous musician at a party is presumed to be a waiter because he is Black), but also how the KKK was deeply imbedded in the police force (not much has changed in this regard, per a 2006 FBI report). In any event, the social situation in the book feels very similar to what the US has seen in the past few years … and it brought everything into disturbing focus.
On some levels, this is a thriller: will the KKK get away with their plans, or will Maggie and her friends be able to stop them? It’s also a fair play puzzle, with information laid out in the Hutton murder case. Nevertheless, there were aspects of the reveal that took me by surprise. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though the material was often disturbing. Kudos to Susan Elia MacNeal for how she handled it.
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