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by Daniel Edward Craig
Midnight Ink, June 2008
413 pages
ISBN: 0738711195

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Continuing his hotel-based murder mystery series, Daniel Edward Craig follows his debut novel with MURDER AT HOTEL CINEMA, a look at the hotel business in the city with the most demanding clientele, Los Angeles. What appears to be a plum of a job, running the hottest new hotel in Hollywood, soon turns out to be more hassle than it first appears for hotelier Trevor Lambert. Despite the hotel's glitzy opening, the hotel is still in the process of being remodeled (from an Old Hollywood motor inn), the opening party is supposed to showcase a temperamental new star, and the owner insists on populating the hotel with nothing but celebrities and inept workers who are all his own relatives.

When the paid celebrity, Chelsea Fricks, does make her debut at the party, it's from the balcony of her hotel room. As she jumps from the balcony to the hotel pool, all the party guests assume it's a publicity stunt to promote her new movie. When she fails to surface after a few minutes, only hotel manager Trevor Lambert has enough wits about him to jump in and rescue her, but it's too late.

Was this a publicity stunt gone wrong, a suicide, or murder? Any of the three possibilities seems plausible. Chelsea has a history of erratic behavior, a movie about a blind swimmer that's set to launch her into superstardom, and more than a few murder suspects in her entourage, including her intimidating publicist and less successful celebrity boyfriend. Adding to the list of possible murder suspects are two hotel employees who were behaving questionably on the night in question.

All this makes for high drama in MURDER AT HOTEL CINEMA. While the bones of the story (the murder and subsequent whodunit trail) are strong, author Daniel Edward Craig loses his readers with his character portrayal. The hotel employees are the strongest, most believable characters of the novel, as should be the case from an hotel industry insider like Craig. Where Craig loses his readers is in his depiction of Hollywood celebrities and their hangers-on. Both the stars and those who feed off them have been made into caricatures, which leaves readers laughing less and feeling disappointment in these plastic folks more. Craig peppers the novel with names of recognizable movie stars, singers, and other Hollywood types, but it does little to pump up the failed portrayal of his own central figures. In particular, he fails to offer any hope that the investigating LAPD detective will end up as more than a buffoon (although there were some hints that he could be more interesting).

In the end, readers are just left not caring very much what happens or who killed Chelsea Fricks. Author Craig started off with a great script, but he failed in his casting, and, as a result, readers are left with a B movie of a novel.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, June 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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