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Valentino Mystery
Loren Estleman

Forge Books
April 2, 2013 / ISBN 978-0765333315


Reviewed by Dennis Collins

Valentino works for UCLA as a film archivist. His primary mission is to find and preserve old and rare film. When Craig Hunter, an old friend and featured movie actor turned alcoholic bum calls Valentino it sounds a lot like a guy looking for a handout and so Valentino blows him off. Soon Hunter shows up dead, the victim of a gangland style beating. Valentino feels some guilt for ignoring a call for help and decides to look into his old friend’s death.

It doesn’t take long for cops, competitors, and other rare film collectors to zero in on Valentino for answers on what murder victim Craig Hunter was up to. But Valentino hasn’t a clue.

Hunter was never a fan of horror movies but several of these type of reference books show up in his personal effects.

Valentino knows that the only horror footage of any significant value would be a screen test of Bela Legosi trying out, unsuccessfully for the role of the Frankenstein monster; a part eventually awarded to Boris Karloff. No one was even sure if that film actually existed because the entire affair was swimming in rumors. And if it ever did exist, by now it had surely been destroyed. But enough people believed in its existence to keep the panic alive.

There is an impressive line-up of suitors vying for this film, beginning with the mother of a powerful mobster, an extremely wealthy magazine publisher, and of course the UCLA film history department. The two cops investigating Craig Hunter’s murder are also keeping a close eye on Valentino.

Valentino has a few allies as well, including UCLA professor Kyle Broadhead, his unpaid intern, Jason Stickley, and his girlfriend, Harriet.

And then the film shows up at Valentino’s door. It seems that everyone knows where the film is now and Valentino receives a phone call saying that he needs to bring the film to a designated location or Craig Hunter’s widow will soon join him in the grave.

I’m not a fan of the movie industry or in horror movies but Loren Estleman is the one author that I know who could write the local phone book and make it intriguing. It’s a book well worth reading.

Reviewed 2013