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Alive! (Valentino Mysteries) Hardcover – April 2, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The third in Estleman’s always-entertaining series starring film archivist Valentino again delivers a delightful mix of comedy, mystery, and movie history. This time the archival jewel that inspires murder and puts Valentino in hot water is a long-lost screen test of Bela Lugosi trying out for the role of Frankensteins monster that would eventually go to Boris Karloff. A down-and-out actor and onetime friend of Valentino’s was trying to peddle the screen test before he was murdered. The cops like Valentino for the crime, leaving Val no choice but to find the Lugosi snippet and clear himself. The backstory on Legosi, Karloff, and the horror-movie genre in general will have film fans salivating, and, as always, Estleman seamlessly incorporates the movie bits into the mystery plot. And, for good measure, this time he throws in—equally seamlessly—a subplot involving a gaggle of steampunkers who come to Val’s aid in the hunt for the screen test. Great fun on multiple fronts. --Bill Ott


“Shamus-winner Estleman's captivating second mystery to feature L.A. film detective Valentino. Readers will eagerly turn the pages.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review on Alone

Frames melds Estleman’s love of movies with his gift for swift, satisfying storytelling.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Great cast, great subject, flawless delivery from a real pro.”
Booklist starred review on Frames
Frames is gripping entertainment. If you love movies, you'll love this mystery.”
—Lawrence Kasdan, Oscar Award-nominee  
“Estleman has scripted yet another wacky comedic mystery. His snappy dialog, feisty characters, Hollywood lore, and gentle romance make this his funniest to date.”
Library Journal on Frames

“Estleman has laid claim to a fresh new franchise and the turf is all his. My hat’s off to him.”
—Sue Grafton, New York Times #1 bestselling author on Frames

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Product Details

  • Series: Valentino Mysteries (Book 3)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition first Printing edition (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765333317
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765333315
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,349,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Loren D. Estleman graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Journalism. In 2002, his alma mater presented him with an honorary doctorate in letters. He left the job market in 1980 to write full time, after a few years spent "pounding out beat-the-train journalism" during his day job as a reporter before going home and writing fiction at night.

His first novel was published in 1976, and has been followed by more than 70 books and hundreds of short stories and articles. His series include novels about Detroit detective Amos Walker, professional killer Peter Macklin, L.A. film detective and amateur sleuth Valentino, and the Detroit crime series. On the western side is the U.S. Deputy Marshal Page Murdock series. Additionally, he's written dozens of stand-alone novels.

His books have been translated into 27 languages and have won multiple Shamus, Spur, Western Heritage, and Stirrup awards. He has been nominated for the National Book Award and the Edgar Allan Poe Award. In 2012, the Western Writers of America honored him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

He lives in Michigan and is married to writer Deborah Morgan. Find out more about Estleman and his books on his website:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RJPetyo on June 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"Film Detective" Valentino, who searches for rare movie footage for the UCLA film department, is contacted by Craig Hunter, a former friend and one time actor. Valentino hangs up on him because he is tired of being hit up for money by Hunter who has become a bit of a derelict. But when Hunter ends up murdered, Valentino learns that he had planned to offer him rare footage of a screen test of Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein's monster, the part that eventually went to Boris Karloff. Valentino wants to solve the murder, partly to avenge Hunter, and partly to keep the film footage out of the hands of the police department who, if they seized it as evidence, would not properly preserve the fragile film stock.

His investigation leads him to Hunter's widow, a gangster and his mouthpiece lawyer, a horror movie magazine publisher, a competing rare film archivist, and others.

The banter between Valentino's co-workers/investigators, Kyle Brodhead, college assistant Fanta, and--new to the team--Jason Stickely is light-hearted, an attempt at a screwball comedy out of the thirties and forties. Unfortunately, the dialogue just doesn't ring true, nor is it that funny. The mystery is adequately handled, with a few twists and turns, but the novel goes on too many pages past the resolution of the mystery. These people just aren't that interesting.

What is interesting is the background of old Hollywood movies. This series is for movie buffs, which is what kept me reading. I am fascinated with the history of old movies. To me, the scene in a wax museum that depicted famous movie scenes was a gem.

If you like old movies, this is a good read; if you don't, it's a so-so mystery.
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Format: Hardcover
Enthusiasts of early Hollywood films and stars will enjoy this mystery series written by long-time author Loren Estleman.

Valentino (simply "Val" to his friends)works for UCLA where he seeks and refurbishes long-lost treasures related to the movie industry. When not searching for lost copies of little known screen gems or theater-related paraphernalia, he envisions himself opening a long-closed theater he is using his resources to restore.

In this, the third installment of Estleman's Valentino mysteries, Val receives a call from a long-time actor friend with access to a screen test of Bela Lugosi as the Frankenstein monster. Although this test failed miserably, the film captures the Transylvanian actor in a role that ultimately enabled Boris Karloff to attain screen martyrdom. The murder of his friend leads Valentino on a mission to determine who killed him, and to locate the lost film classic.

Valentino is a reluctant detective and, as in the other novels, he seems to stubble more upon the action than try to establish it. The pleasure of the book really lies in Estleman's inclusion of movie history, and his development of supporting characters. As a novel twist, he entwines his tale with an introduction of "the steampunks", a student movement focused on the mechanics of wheels and gadgets. The have a minor role in the story, but actually present an interesting concept.

As an added feature, Estleman has included 18 pages at the end of the story with information regarding Hollywood, characters, locations and films about the horror genre. It, alone is a great read.

Readers of Robert Brindisi's "Rat Pack" stories or Stuart Kaminski's Toby Peter's Hollywood mysteries will find a kindred friend in Valentino.
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Format: Hardcover
Just finished this detective novel - it caught my eye on the New Books shelf at the Library, so I read the blurb and picked it up.

With a name like Rudolph Valentino, how could you not be a fan of the Golden Age of Film? Val takes this a few steps further; not only is he restoring a classic movie palace, but he works for the UCLA Film Preservation department to hunt down rare and "lost" films. Unfortunately, his job seems to embroil him in the less-than-lawful arena of obsessive collectors (himself included).

After a friend of his is murdered, Val discovers that said friend was on the track of one of the most sought-after items in the Film Horror world - the test reels of Bela Lugosi auditioning for the role of Frankenstein's monster. Needless to say, it's become personal, and Val dives in, head over gumshoed-heels.

Alive! is a fun mystery/detective novel set in the present day, but with the sensibilities of the noir time period. Fans of the Golden Era of Film in general (and Horror in particular) will find Valentino a sympathetic character.

The plot was enjoyable enough and the characters well-drawn and engaging (I hope Jason shows up again!). I may track down another Valentino novel at some point - the film researcher hook is an appealing twist to the detective novel genre for me.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A friend of Valentino’s, washed up action film star Craig Hunter, is found beaten to death in a known mobster’s bar. The last person he phoned was Valentino. Val goes to comfort Hunter’s grieving ex-wife and finds a case full of books about Universal monster movies. The amateur detective and film preservationist discovers that Hunter was trying to broker a deal for a long lost screen test for Frankenstein. Universal had wanted the iconic monster to be played by there then reigning horror film star Bela Lugosi. The screen test was so awful that the studio ordered it burned. Was the film saved from destruction and if so is it valuable enough that someone would kill for it?

This is the third book in the Valentino series. I like reading this series because of the film history. Estleman did a lot of research for this novel and included a bibliography of resources at the end.

One of the characters in this installment is a young man who is part of the steampunk movement. The author writes about the clothes, music, and basic esthetics of steampunk. It fits in well with the Frankenstein theme of the book.

Like all of the books in this series, it is an enjoyable read that I recommend to anyone interested in classic movies and likes a good mystery.
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