Simon & Schuster, August 03, 2010
Hardcover, 336 pages, $24.00
Anna Mayhew, an almost “has been” in Hollywood, is planning her suicide. Vincent Perec, a razor wielding fan, is planning her murder. Then along comes private investigator David Spandau to put a hitch in both their plans.
Babylon Nights is Daniel Depp’s follow up to 2009’s Loser’s Town, which introduced readers to the cut-throat, seedy underbelly of the film industry through the eyes of former rodeo rider turned movie stuntman turned private investigator, David Spandau. With Babylon Nights, Depp has written a tight and well told story using his background in the film industry to craft a true noir crime novel.
The story opens with a twisted Perec standing over nude photos of the former Hollywood hottie, Anna Mayhew. After spending months on the internet tracking down the rare old photos, he traded two thousand dollars to a guy in San Diego to get them. Now the photos are his, and he’s slashing himself with his father’s razor, sending blood droplets onto Anna’s photographs. All the time, he knows his controlling Maman would take them from him if she knew they existed.
The action then cuts to the top parking tier of the trendy Beverly Center as Mayhew trades seven thousand dollars to student and neurotoxin peddler Kenny Kingston for enough poison to end her sagging career and her life. But while leaving a charity luncheon, someone gets too close to Mayhew and she realizes that her scarf has been slashed. Add in a stack of over-the-top, obsessed fan letters and it’s no surprise that Spandau gets called in to meet with her.
We are quickly immersed in Mayhew’s world as she heads off to the glittering Cannes Film Festival to serve as a panel judge, with Spandau along for ride. As the story unfolds, loose ends involving a few of Spandau’s former associates and clients are neatly tied up. In a quirky but ingenious “wrong place at the wrong time” situation, Perec encounters a hooker named Chantarelle, a pimp named Special, and a bag full of the mob’s loot. Of course, in the end, all roads lead to Cannes, with Anna being the hunter’s prey.
Depp’s stand-out talent is his ever-so-snappy dialogue. This is the stuff that makes old detective stories so darn much fun, and clearly Depp knows it and runs with it. With Babylon Nights, the story flows easily with well defined characters and more than enough intrigue to make you turn the page, or hit the “next page” bar on your e-reader. This time, Depp has done away with the non-essentials and sticks to a solid storyline while still including an interesting and somewhat satirical secondary plot with intriguing characters. Depp has wisely used his insider knowledge to enhance the story and has kept his tongue firmly planted in his cheek as the threads weave together for an I- never-saw-it coming ending.
This is a David Spandau book I’d buy and I would happily line up to see a movie version. I hope there’s a next installment so we can find out what happens after “the end.”
Source-review copy, this book was provided to me by the publisher at my request and in no way affected by review.