Monday, April 5, 2021

Windhall by Ava Barry

This novel was definitely one that surprised me. What I mean by that is how I quickly became involved in the plot and couldn't put it down. Honestly, I expected it to take a bit for me to get into the story, but happily that was not the case at all. 

Max Hailey works as an investigative journalist for a digital magazine based in Los Angeles. The Lens doesn't have much time left, and Max is the kind of guy who pisses everyone off, and his boss is no exception. Recently there has been a murder of a young woman near the infamous abandoned mansion of Hollywood director Theodore Langley. It's been over sixty years since Theo's home was the scene of the unsolved murder of a young Hollywood starlet, Eleanor Hayes. Now someone, decades later, has left a copy-cat murder. Could Theo, now in his nineties, be back?

Max has been obsessed with Theo and Eleanor since he was a teenager. He's convinced Theo did kill Eleanor that infamous night at Windhall, his estate in Los Angeles. Yet Theo was never convicted, and disappeared in the 1950's. His estate lay empty all that time. Max has studied everything about Windhall, Theo, and Eleanor, and he is convinced Theo is back for one last murder. So how does he go about proving it?

Max is a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy. A real smart ass who gets in trouble all the time. He grew up in Hollywood, and knows his way around town. Yet this one unsolved murder grabbed his imagination and he's never been able to let it go. As Max makes deals, runs down clues, and goes a bit rogue, he uncovers enough evidence to make him question everything he's believed in about Windhall and Theo. It's not a simple open and shut murder case, and with every little twist and turn, I became fully invested in seeing this mystery solved. 

I'm a big fan of old Hollywood, too, and this book really does a great job of infusing that into the storyline. Oh, I wish I could have seen Los Angeles with the orange groves, farms, ranches, and the old Hollywood mansions. It was pretty seedy, too, and that makes it all so very interesting. Big film studios had a lot of power and could make or break careers in the blink of an eye. 
I found Max likable, even when he was being a jerk. But I've got to hand it to him, he kept digging and didn't give up. Clues are slowly revealed, and just when you think you may have it figured out, another surprise pops up. This isn't a mystery as much as a thriller with some good old fashioned investigative work. 

A big thanks to Pegasus books (Simon & Schuster) for providing a copy of this book to read and review. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it reminded me again of my interest in old Hollywood. A solid read that I honestly couldn't put down. 

Rating: 5/6 for a clever thriller about Old Hollywood and an unsolved murder that sends a contemporary investigative reporter on a quest to uncover the truth. Will he uncover what others have worked so hard to hide?

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