"Cast the First Stone" by James W. Ziskin is the fifth installment in the Ellie Stone Mystery series. This book seals the deal for me. Ellie is, without a doubt, one my favorite amateur sleuths.
In this chapter, Ellie heads out to L.A. to cover a local boy who's made good by scoring his first big break in Hollywood.
However, her story goes off script in a hurry when her subject, Tony Eberle, goes AWOL and becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a famous actor.
Ellie is a reporter for the “New Holland Press”, during the early 1960’s, and despite being a woman in a man’s world, she has proven she has a real knack at investigative reporting, and is often sought out for her unique skills.
However, she comes across a great deal of sexism and she carries a certain sadness around with her free spirited persona.
The author may have captured the Hollywood mindset of the sixties with near perfect precision, studying the sexual experimentation of the era, the desperation to make it in Hollywood by any means necessary, which often meant exploitation, or pornographic exposure.
Ellie, as enlightened and free thinking as she believes herself to be, is shocked by the reality behind all the Hollywood smoke and mirrors, but her reaction to the lifestyle of certain big name movie stars is spot-on. The homophobic attitudes of the nation caused most gay people to hide their orientation, which often left them vulnerable to blackmail and harassment.
The quirky environment of Hollywood is a bit of a juxtaposition from Ellie’s usual beat, putting her in the way of the jaded movers and shakers, explosive secrets, and hidden agendas and motives.
The unusually wet Los Angeles weather perfectly caps off the murky, underbelly of Hollywood that Ellie experiences during her visit.
This atmosphere has Ellie feeling a little out of her element, and she struggles against some well- seasoned players who keep her one step behind at times, but she quickly adapts, sharpening and polishing her natural talents and her skills in a most impressive way.
Ellie also gets a big break with her career as an investigative reporter, getting much more mileage from the story than she ever could have imagined when she first flew out to L.A.
She finally edges out her main competition, ‘Georgie Porgie’, to finally garner a little long overdue respect.
“But I knew my reputation at the ‘New Holland Press’ was only as strong as my most recent day of work. That was the price I paid for wearing a skirt in a man’s job.”
This is an exceptional mystery series, which can be read as a stand alone, or read in any order you wish. But, I do highly recommend every single book in this award winning series.
I binge read the series, in order, and found it enhanced my enjoyment of it and solidified my understanding of Ellie Stone. My only complaint is that now I will have to wait a while for the release of the sixth installment.
I recommend this one to all mystery lovers, but especially for historical mystery fans.
February 1962: Tony Eberle has just scored his first role in a Hollywood movie, and the publisher of his hometown newspaper in upstate New York wants a profile of the local boy who's made good. Reporter Ellie Stone is dispatched to Los Angeles for the story. But when she arrives on set to meet her subject, Tony has vanished. The director is apoplectic, Tony’s agent is stumped, and the producer is found murdered.
Ellie is on the story, diving headfirst into a treacherous demimonde of Hollywood wannabes, beautiful young men, desperately ambitious ingénues, panderers, and pornography hobbyists. Then there are some real movie stars with reputations to protect. To find the killer, Ellie must separate the lies from the truth, unearthing secrets no one wants revealed along the way. But before she can solve the producer’s murder, she must locate Tony Eberle.