The Song Is You : A Novel by Megan Abbott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In October, 1949, actress Jean Spangler disappeared, leaving behind a daughter in the care of her cousin, a broken-strapped purse, and lots of dark rumors. Two years later, PR man Gil "Hop" Hopkins tries to piece together what happened to the rising star. Can Hop navigate the web of sex, drugs, and blackmail and find her killer or killers and still retain his sanity?
Kemper and I met Megan Abbott at BoucherCon 2011. Aside from a funny series of events that led to her signing my copy of this book Megan "The Bitch" Abbott, the main thing I remember from he experience was Kemper saying "That's Megan Abbott? She's tiny!" Tiny she may be but Megan Abbott can noir it up with the big dogs any old day of the week.
The Song Is You is a bleak tale of murder, sex, drugs, and blackmail behind the scenes of the motion picture industry of the early 50's. Hop is as in dark about Jean Spangler's true fate as the reader for most of the book. For a slim 250-ish pages, the plot is surprisingly intricate with more than its share of twists and turns. I had no idea what I was getting into when I first cracked it open.
Gil "Hop" Hopkins is a pretty good noir lead. He's a womanizing PR man for a film studio, a former reporter who still has a knack for ferreting out information. He's far from a golden boy and his slide toward madness as he tries to figure out what happened after Jean Spangler disappeared was very believable. The supporting cast is just as good. Iolene, Jean's best friend, Franny, the reporter gunning for a story, and Jerry, Hop's best friend and the man his wife Midge left him for. The apparent villains of the piece, a musical comedy duo, seem like degenerate bastards but still quite believable.
As I mentioned before, the twists kept on coming. I have to confess that I quit trying to figure out what happened about halfway through and just leaned back and let Megan Abbott drag me through the muck of Hollywood along with Hop. The ending was pretty satisfying. Even though it was a pretty slim book, I had the same worn out feeling I had after reading The Black Dahlia by the time it was over.
It's an easy four star read for noir fans. I'm not sure if I like it more than the other Megan Abbott book I've read, Queenpin, or not. It's damn sure worth a read, though.
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