Monday, August 17, 2020

#Review - Chasing Starlight by Teri Bailey Black #YA #Mystery #Historical

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: August 11, 2020
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Mysteries / Historical

A high concept, light-hearted, historical YA about the Golden Age of Hollywood

1938. The Golden Age of Hollywood. Palm trees and movie stars. Film studios pumping out musicals, westerns, and gangster films at a furious pace. Everyone wants to be a star—except society girl and aspiring astronomer Kate Hildebrand, who’d rather study them in the night sky. She’s already famous thanks to a childhood tragedy turned her into a newspaper headline. What she craves is stability.

When Kate has to move to Hollywood to live with her washed-up silent film star grandfather, she walks into a murder scene and finds herself on the front page again. She suspects one of the young men boarding in her grandfather’s run-down mansion is the killer—maybe even her grandfather. She searches for clues.

Now, Kate must discover the killer while working on the set of a musical—and falling in love. Will her stars align so she can catch the murderer and live the dream in Old Hollywood? Or will she find that she's just chasing starlight?

Part Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, with a dash of Veronica Mars.

Teri Bailey Black's Chasing Starlight is her sophomore follow-up to Girl at the Grave. This story is a 1930's era historical murder mystery set in old Hollywood featuring 17-year old Kate Hildebrand. Kate has burned all of her bridges. Her parents are dead. She lived with her aunt Lorna who needed money badly and thus rushes into a marriage to someone Kate doesn't care a whip about and said so in a letter trying to stop a huge mistake from happening. Kate has only one other place she can go. Pasadena. 

Pasadena is where her grandfather Oliver Banks lives. Oliver saw his once bright career fade into obscurity with the advent of color pictures. Nobody watches black and white movies any longer. But, things don't exactly start out well for Kate. When she arrives, Kate finds Ollie living in a dilapidated mansion with a motley crew of house boarders. She witnesses a strange scene between her grandfather, and his boarders Hugo Quick, Aurelio Dios, Reuben Feigenbaun, and Lemmy.   Oliver's boarders are a strange sort. 

Hugo admits that he's a communist which history buffs should immediately understand. Reuben, who was a bookkeeper for a very bad man, has been in hiding for months. Aurelio is struggling to find work as an actor or dancer but because of his Spanish heritage, he's expected to play only those roles. *Aurelio is a really, really good dancer folks.* Lemmy is likely a stooge for Moe Kravitz who everyone seems to owe money. Oliver, who is clearly broke and broken, hasn't left the house in years. After all, if you were suddenly famous thanks to your black and white movies and the next day you were ignored because color pictures have arrived, you'd likely hide away in your house and become a hermit. 

Kate who has always wanted to be an astronomer, (she was the first girl ever to become her astronomy clubs President) quickly decides that she's had enough and doesn't plan on staying all that long. But, without money, and her aunt on a cruise with her new husband, she's kind stuck between a rock and a hard place. Now we need to really discuss who Kate is. You see, Kate is rather famous. Everyone knows who Kate is. She can't go anywhere without someone pointing to her or recognizing her face that was plastered in the newspapers for weeks. When she was (13), she made national headlines after she was kidnapped and held for a week which led to all sorts of twisted revelations and her parents deaths. 

When she shows up in Hollywood, the directors and producers immediately see a cash cow they can manage and use. After all, morbid curiosity makes people spend lots of money. Kate then finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery when she discovers Lemmy dead on the kitchen floor. Right where she found her grandfather and the others when she arrived. Who dun it? Well, that's what Kate intends to find out. Kate gets a job working for Falcon Pictures as an assistant. This is where Kate learns the ins and outs of the movie business and becomes friends with Bonnie Fairchild, a wannabe child star, and her overbearing mother. 

The author isn't afraid of showing the realism of Hollyweird. She does a good job displaying the chaos of Hollywood life; the lip service the industry pays one another to get their work done; and the talent that goes unnoticed, except for those lucky enough to witness it off screen. The story appealed to me because I love early Hollywood movies especially from Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford and many others. Things seemed more sophisticated and the scandals were even juicier than we all could have imagined. 

Take the Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short) who was brutally murdered and her killer was never found. In this story, Kate begins to question Oliver and his boarders as to who murdered Lemmy who wasn't really a good person. Kate then starts to think the worst about the boy she's falling in love with, and whether he can truly be a cold blooded killer. The mystery itself was makes for some rather enjoyable subplot. After all, Kate literally is surrounded on a daily basis by those she could consider to be the murderer. Kate's guilt as to what really happened 4 years ago and her implied PTSD is well covered. Kate's relationship with her grandfather doesn't start off well, but it gradually becomes clear that Kate loves Oliver as only family can love their own.

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