True Crime novels are one of those tricky types of books that are hard to do well. Most of the time the writer manages to do a dry retelling of events that, while factual, fails to ignite my interest. I’m afraid this one falls into that category. While Mann adds little details like what the weather was like in order to bring the story to life, in the end the book is a pretty dry accounting of the events. To be honest, I suspect that my real issue is that I have been ruined by fiction, and real life events are never as neat and tidy as fiction. This was a fine book, but not really to my taste. That said, my Dad totally stole this book from me and he seemed to enjoy it so I suspect your mileage may vary.
The book is a deep look into the murder of William Desmond Taylor, a movie director during the dawn of the age of Hollywood. There was a lot of scandal and mystery surrounding his death, and it’s one that was never really solved, partly because there were forces in Hollywood trying to keep scandals contained. The book examines all those forces and how they shaped the murder trial, which was apparently a huge deal around the nation. It also looks at each of the people suspected of being involved in the murder, and eventually comes to one conclusion. While the book claims to have the final answer as to who actually killed Taylor, and their answer does make sense, it’s still based mostly on conjuncture. Unfortunately, I think conjuncture is the best that we’re ever going to get with this case as all principles involved are now dead.
The book was interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying. Like I said, I’ve been spoiled by fiction, and I like my murder mysteries wrapped up in a nice tidy who-done-it bow. I did enjoy the book as a look at the early studio system.