Lurking on a Malibu hillslope, hoping to catch a shot of film legend Angela Doubleday--who hasnt been seen in public since a stalker died in her embrace a decade ago--isnt exactly the way Nina Zero dreamed of spending her 30th birthday. But, as Robert Eversz makes clear in Burning Garbo
, this baby photographer-turned-ex-con paparazza can't be overly choosy about her assignments these days. She just didn't expect this one to result in her being attacked by a wild-eyed stranger, then left unconscious as a brushfire consumes the Doubleday estate--and almost her, in the bargain.
Now, under suspicion for both arson and the reclusive actress's murder, Nina can only hope to prove someone else guilty of these crimes. Perhaps the guy who assaulted her, or the George Clooney-lookalike she spotted at Doubleday's place right before the blaze, or the late star's obsequious chauffeur, who may know more about his employer's assets than her accountant did. Not above reproach, either, is Doubleday's principal heir, a previously luckless niece who isn't as immune to avarice as Nina had supposed. With her black dye job and nose stud, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Duluth--the result of an abusive childhood and her misadventures in two previous novels, Shooting Elvis and Killing Paparazzi--Nina Zero isn't the warmest or most well-adjusted fictional protagonist around. ("I'm running from a lot of things," she tells her parole officer. "But I'm not fast enough. Things are catching up.") Yet she's persistent, and with some help from a toothless Rottweiler, a resourceful tabloid reporter, and an unconventional father figure in the form of a retired cop, she just might figure out who did in the "miserable" Doubleday (if she's dead at all), without winding up either back in the slammer or crushed inside a tumbling trailer home.
Less sharp-edged than Killing Paparazzi, Burning Garbo is as much a cleverly constructed mystery as it is a continuation of Nina Zero's search for self-identity. Although the case here is solved with somewhat dubious brilliance, and an extended foray into L.A.'s jail system distracts from the plot's arc, Nina's brassy irreverence and Eversz's taste for savaging the more eccentric elements of Southern California culture make a combustible storytelling combination. --J. Kingston Pierce
From Publishers Weekly
Falsely accused of arson and murder, Eversz's series hero Nina Zero (Shooting Elvis; Killing Paparazzi) gets herself into more trouble than ever in this new installment. Formerly Mary Alice Baker, a children's photographer who landed in prison, upon parole she morphed into exotic Nina Zero, a celebrity paparazza for Scandal Times in L.A. While trying to take pictures of the reclusive retired movie star Angela Doubleday, Nina sees Doubleday's Malibu mansion go up in flames, is shot at by a strange man and finds herself adopted by a lovable, toothless rottweiler. When a vicious arson investigator blames Nina for the fire and-after human bones are discovered in the ashes-murder, she must prove her innocence. Along the way she befriends Angela's niece, Arlanda Cortes; Angela's godfather, Ben Turner; and a retired sheriff's deputy; she also meets a host of suspicious characters, including two brothers with a dark past who are also after Nina. Eversz noirishly evokes Southern California-"Los Angeles is a city where people move to become someone they imagine themselves to be but aren't yet and most likely never will be"-and, despite frantic pacing and a convoluted plot, creates colorful, well-rounded characters. With plenty of celebrity satire and an ending that confounds expectations, this is a rollicking ride.
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