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The Edge of Ruin: An Emily Weiss Mystery Hardcover – April 27, 2010
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About the Author
IRENE FLEMING lives in Lambertville, New Jersey, with her musician husband and their cat. Writing as Kate Gallison, she has three private eye novels and five traditional mysteries to her credit. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the Authors Guild, the Hunterdon County Board of Elections and the Episcopal Church. She is an avid fan of silent movies.
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Having signed a contract that will ruin them if they don't turn in four completed movies in a month, there's no time to waste in selling everything, moving to New York, and putting together a cast of actors, props, costumes, and a camera man.
They've barely begun filming across the river in New Jersey when a former Pinkerton detective is murdered on set, and Adam Weiss is declared the killer and carted off to jail. Emily is left behind to continue filming so they won't lose everything and to find proof that will exonerate her husband.
The only thing I didn't like about this book was the fact that I immediately knew whom the killer was; otherwise, this was a very enjoyable book to read.
Having the book set during the early days of the movie industry when Edison had an iron grip on his patents and hired men to discourage any and all independent movie companies was a stroke of genius. Not only are there ideas for a million future books in this period, it's also fun and educational to read about the birth of one of our favorite forms of entertainment.
The book moves very quickly-- almost as quickly as those one-reelers Emily was producing-- and the characters are well drawn and grab the imagination.
Emily is young, pretty, and a former chorine on stage. Adam is handsome and extremely ambitious. Within a very few pages, these two gain more depth. All their possessions are sold, including a good part of Emily's wardrobe-- but not a stitch of Adam's-- which throws up a red flag concerning Adam's character. A little later when Adam is jailed and Emily is in charge of writing the storylines and scenes for the movies, Emily is shown to be highly intelligent, capable of taking charge, and not willing to knuckle under to threats-- not exactly the type of woman who's going to blend well with a man like Adam.
The history was fascinating, the story quick-paced and well-plotted, and combined with the growth of the two main characters, this all leads me to the conclusion that I've found another series of which to keep track.
Life is good!
Our basic story: It's 1909, and Emily Weiss is a new bride who is reasonably well-off. That is, until her husband declares that he's sick of running the string of Nickelodeon houses and wants to make films himself. So he has sold everything and committed their savings to a business deal in which the couple will deliver four movies in just a few weeks... or lose everything.
That might be hard enough to cope with -- even with the plucky Emily willing to write the scenarios, find actors, and make other arrangements -- except that the new company must also fly under the radar of Thomas Edison. Edison's company holds the patents for some of the essential film-making equipment, you see, and is not beyond sending tough guys to rough up the competition. Then one of said Toughs ends up dead, Emily's husband is accused of the murder, and she has to both finish the movies AND clear his name.
The end result is a story that manages to be both breezy -- this is VERY easy-to-read -- and darkly realistic, with side discussions of union disputes and socialism and living conditions. I learned a lot about the film-making process, as I had hoped, with enough local color to make this originally-from-New-York gal say, "Really? I didn't know that!" (Well yeah I guess there must have been SOMEthing in Fort Lee before they put up the bridge...).
This isn't a deep, meaningful novel that you will discuss with all your friends. But it's a lovely diversion, what I think of as "good for reading on a plane trip" entertainment.