This lively book with an unusual setting and snappy dialogue continues the series of L.A. film detective Valentino. There are great details about film history, a subject the author makes intriguing. The humor is clever and the addition of a steampunk group of students highlights the differences between the past and the present and shows links between the two.
Valentino receives a call from a former friend, an actor, who needs to see him. Too much bad behavior has taken place however, and Valentino refuses. When the man is found murdered the next day it seems to be further evidence of his decline. But the case is linked to an early screen test reel. Before Boris Karloff played the Frankenstein monster, Bela Lugosi tested for the part. The reel disappeared years ago and Valentino, who works for UCLA in the film preservation department, wants to find both the screen test and the murderer. Problems and danger from other collectors, a gangster, a wealthy attorney and the police lead him into danger. (FORGE, Apr., 224 pp., $24.99)