Josh Sibley, singer/songwriter, is handsome, talented, smart and headed for oblivion. Alcohol provides relief when his demons threaten to overwhelm his every effort to break free of his past. To pay his bills, he works as caretaker at the zoo, which is a perfect job for Josh who loves animals more than any person he has ever met. When his friend Jennie Seger arranges for him to write songs for a multi-million-dollar feature, all his doubts and fears fall away and he embraces the opportunity like a starving man who has found a bounteous feast in the midst of famine.
Lightning strikes his lonely heart in the form of singer/actress Lila Levy who is married to the producer of the movie and flaunts her sexuality at Josh knowing her breathtaking beauty more than makes up for her lack of talent. Knowing his love for Lila is doomed from the start, he overlooks her shortcomings and keeps his feelings under wraps as he teaches her to sing his songs. What’s more important, his career or a night with Lila? At this point in life, it’s a no-brainer.
But this is Hollywood and nothing is as it seems. Lila has secrets that Josh cannot begin to fathom and doesn’t want to know. When her husband Stan is murdered, Lila disappears and Josh is confronted by the woman determined to track her down, Sergeant Rosemaria Baker of the Beverly Hills Police Department. Rosemaria is the polar opposite of Lila; hates show business, and considers Josh a delusional loser. When the cops track down Lila and bring her in, Lila declares herself innocent and the fight for the soul of Josh Sibley begins. While Rosemaria comes to understand and care for Josh, Lila manipulates and keeps him entangled in her life and evil machinations. Rosemaria breaks though his defenses when she helps save the life of Josh’s best friend Noor, a black panther who lives at the zoo. But her relentless investigation of Lila is an impenetrable barrier between her and Josh. Hating herself for falling for the kind of man she would never in her life have considered before, Rosemaria becomes inexorably involved in solving the riddle of his tragic past. But Josh, bewitched by Lila, is unreachable. \tWhen the truth about Lila finally comes out in court and Josh can finally see his way out of his lovelorn haze, Rosemaria has gone. Before Josh has any chance to find her and make things right, he has to come to terms with remembrances of the pain he has been avoiding and accept the gifts life is more than ready to offer him.
Plot: The plot opens up with an immediate hook, drawing the readers in, and provides plenty of obstacles, twists, and development throughout the story. The story has a clearly defined climax and a satisfying resolution without over-relying on expositions, but rather character-structured events. There are only small instances of tangential plot-telling which did not provide value to the broader story.
Prose/Style: Generally, the work is well written, showcasing excellent command of language and literary tools. The writing neither feels stuffy, nor fluffs itself up with unnecessary words. The writing style does not over-rely on a single tool or technique and provides a balanced and suspenseful read. However, there are minor instances where the author's command of writing technique noticeably slips up, creating unnecessary wordiness, that, if eliminated, would improve the storytelling.
Originality: Although many other authors have exhaustively explored the topic around Hollywood mysteries and culture, this writer delivers this narrative in a fresh perspective, making the read thoroughly original. The story is compelling and does not fall victim to predictability.
Character/Execution: The characters are well written, exampling clearly defined motivations, character growth, and personality frameworks. While some echo and may first appear to fall into one of the many literary stereotypes, there is still enough complexity and individuality written into their development that creates authenticity and relatability. The author also does an excellent job of avoiding over-description of stock background characters.
Date Submitted: July 16, 2020