Death is a sidewinder. It strikes from a place concealed and unthinkable, triggering a reality completely unexpected. – Vickie Lester
Anne Brown, a New York teacher and author of literary novels is on her way to Palm Springs in the middle of winter. Movie studio bigwigs are flying her out to renew the option on her first novel, a decade out of print. Why do the rich and beautiful people welcome her with open arms? Is it because she’s the out of wedlock daughter of a retired movie mogul?
No, it’s a bit more sinister than that, Cliff, the most beautiful person there, tells Anne. An acting agent, he fills her in and offers to help her navigate the proverbial shark infested waters. And draws her into a whirlwind affair that is hardly the norm for Anne, a confirmed bachelorette, who thinks of herself as the girl that guys just want to be friends with.
It seems too good to be true, but it is, until the following morning, when Cliff is found dead by the side of the road in his Ferrari. It looks like a tragic heart attack until the coroner finds he overdosed on the kind of drug cocktail used to enhance pleasure at the gay sex club up the road. Cliff hardly seemed gay to Anne, and everyone who knew him swears he was straight in every sense of the word.
Filled with grief, anger, and curiosity, Anne begins to ask questions. It soon becomes apparent that everyone at the Palm Springs house that weekend was hiding something. “Was there not one single normal person in all of L.A.?” she wonders. And then a black Escalade tries to chase her down on the freeway…
Vickie Lester, who blogs at Beguiling Hollywood, used to write screenplays, “Horrid, arty, little things,” she says, “that were…optioned again and again, but never made into movies. Perhaps, because they were neither commercial or cinematic?”
Now she has turned her considerable talent and insider’s knowledge of Hollywood into a gripping mystery, with an ending I never saw coming. It’s In His Kiss is funny and smart and offers an insider’s view of a world of illusion that still fascinates.
The City of Angels was named for beings most often seen by children, visionaries, and the insane. The best novels out of LA are woven with a noir tone – all that sun and all those palm trees have to cast a shadow. Anne Brown and Phillip Marlowe are very different characters, and yet I imagine the spirit of Raymond Chandler is pleased. As a fan of both authors, I know I was!