Valentino is a film archivist at UCLA.† His job is finding and restoring old and lost
movie footage. His hobby and labor of love is restoring the old movie theater that his life
savings is wrapped up in.† Valentino pours his heart and his money into the project, but a
corrupt building inspector keeps throwing obstacles in his path, fishing for a payoff.
Department store mogul Matthew Rankin is in possession of Greta Garboís very first
appearance on film, a commercial clip called How Not to Dress.† Rankinís deceased
wife had been a close friend of Garboís and the two communicated often. Rankin is hosting
a party to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Garboís birth and and has been
teasing Valentino with the prospect of donating his historical Garbo footage to the
University.† In return, Rankin asks Valentino to help him dig up some dirt on Roger Akers,
It seems that Akers had been blackmailing Rankin, threatening to expose an alleged
lesbian relationship between Rankinís dead wife and Garbo. Akers claimed to have a letter,
written by Garbo, that†proves his charge.
And then Akers is suddenly dead, shot by Rankin while attempting to bludgeon Rankin with
a marble bust. It was self defense and the police investigation supports the claim.† But
Valentino has reservations.
Valentinoís girlfriend, Harriet, works for the LAPD as a forensic analyst and tries to
keep him on the straight and narrow. She knows that stories of amateurs meddling in police
matters seldom come to a happy ending. But Valentino pushes on.
I have read a number of Loren Estlemanís books, both mysteries and westerns, and he still
surprises me with his total mastery of prose. The magic in Estleman's words†can make even a
murder sound poetic.† There are very few authors around who can keep the reader charging
forward on writing style alone, but Estleman does it time and time again.† Alone is
a strong story, and the inclusion of Garbo would add mystery to any tale. As with all
Estleman novels, itís well told and engaging from beginning to end.