Crime Fiction Alphabet: M is for Movies

There are a few settings that feature more regularly in crime fiction than they do in most people’s reality, but perhaps none is more glamorous than the movie set. Loads of authors have set mysteries in or around the movies, some even have whole series set in the film industry. I suppose the authors are cashing in on society’s fascination with celebrities and the film world.

Anthony Boucher’s 1941 novel The Case of the Solid Key is his third novel featuring private eye Fergus O’Breen. Although the first body in this dramatic tale is discovered in a theatre it’s a theater in Hollywood and the motley collection of actors and crew hanging out there also have (or deeply wish to have) film careers and a movie studio does play an important role in the novel.

I only recently got around to reading Patricia Moyes‘ 1964 novel which takes place on the set of an independent film being shot in London, Falling Star. When the financially troubled film receives an injection of cash due to the slightly too well time death of someone Inspector Henry Tibbett of Scotland Yard steps in to solve this murder (and those which inevitably follow it).

In the 1980′s and 90′s George Baxt wrote a historical and mostly satirical series featuring a 1940′s private detective who worked in and around Hollywood. Each book would see a screen icon of the 40′s involved in some intrigue or other, often with countless other high profile names scattered throughout the stories as bit players. Agatha Christie even featured in The Bette Davis Murder Case which was a pretty far-fetched tale in which Ms Davis was doing a stage play in London and somehow got involved in helping Ms Christie solve the poisoning murder of her neighbour. Books like these make me wonder if an author can do just anything they like with a famous person’s name?

In 1994′s Dead Pan by Jane Dentinger, out of work New York stage actress Jocelyn ‘Josh’ O’Roarke is invited to Hollywood to work on a movie with a former out child star (who is also a recovering drug addict and recently orphaned). It’s not long before the director of photography turns up dead and Ginger (the aforementioned child star) is the main suspect. O’Roarke and the set’s hairstylist Jack Breedlove decide to solve the crime. This is part of a fun cosy series.

Australian crime writer Brian Kavanagh set the third of his Belinda Lawrence mysteries, Bloody Ham (2007), on the set of a period drama being filmed at historic Ham House in Surrey. Ostensibly on set to watch over some valuable props that her friend Hazel has hired to the film, Belinda soon finds herself a stand-in for one of the actresses and a suspect in the first (of several) murders that befall the shooting.

Perhaps Agatha Christie‘s The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side would also qualify for this category given that it does feature an actress/film director husband and wife team? Or perhaps there is another Christie book that is more definitely placed in the film world?

Do you have a favourite work of crime fiction set on a movie set or somehow related to the world of cinema?


Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is hosting the crime fiction alphabet meme which requires the posting of an article relating to the letter of the week. Do join in the fun by reading the posts and/or contributing one of your own. You don’t have to write every week.

8 thoughts on “Crime Fiction Alphabet: M is for Movies

  1. Bernadette – Oh, I like your choice of topic! And I’m glad you mentioned The Mirror Crack’d<. As far as I know, it’s the Christie most closely associated with film-making. There’s also Michael Connelly’s Lost Light, and Daniel Depp’s Loser’s Town. And although Robert B. Parker’s Blue Screen isn’t just about film-making, it plays a role in that one, too. Thanks for making me think about this; I’m sure there are lots more examples…

  2. How about a crime novel based on a 50-year old movie?
    Hiburnian noir Ken Bruen copies the plot of Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard” in his 2001 crime novel LONDON BOULEVARD. It’s fascinating reading. A young man released from prison and reluctant to return to a life of crime finds work as a handyman for a reclusive stage actress. Lillian’s only other employee is a butler. The studio keeps calling not for an audition but to rent her expensive silver Mercedes.
    The movie based on Bruen’s book has wrapped and should be in UK theaters any day now. Colin Ferrill and Keira Knightly star. William Monahan wrote the screenplay and directed.

    My review of LONDON BOULEVARD is at the US Amazon book site.
    Jane

  3. I’m late but congratulations in winning the Nordic Challenge 2011 book bundle. You deserve it, and definitely read more Nordic books than anyone else! :)

  4. The Mirror Cracked is probably my Christie favourite – not so much for the film theme as for the Lady of Shalott quotations.

    Didn´t Ngaio Marsh write one about actors? There is Elizabeth George´s Payment in Blood, of course, but I´d not call it a favourite. And there is also P.D. James´ “The Skull Beneath the Skin” (a Cordelia Gray story).

  5. Ngaio Marsh wrote a lot about the theatre, not sure about films.

    Carter Dickson aka John Dickson Carr wrote And So To Murder, set on a movie set, but it’s distinctly one of his lesser works. There are some Ellery Queen books set in Hollywood. I think The Four of Heart involves a film, but it’s been a while.

  6. Pingback: It turns out I don’t know my ABC after all | Reactions to Reading

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