Thursday, October 04, 2007

Some Like It Hot-Buttered - Jeffrey Cohen



Some Like It Hot-Buttered
A Double Feature Mystery
Jeffrey Cohen
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery

Elliot Freed is the new owner of a seventy-year-old, single-screen movie house in Midland Heights, NJ. The closest Elliot has even been to the movies was when he sold his novel to be made into a film. And, come to think of it, even that was a little too close, since what hit the screen was barely recognizable as his story. But the money from that sale bought him the movie house, now renamed Comedy Tonight. During a double bill of Young Frankenstein and the latest Rob Schneider ‘comedy,’ a patron dies. Elliot thought there was something wrong with the guy when he didn’t laugh at the Gene Hackman scene in Young Frankenstein, but figured everyone is entitled to a moment of bad taste.

What really leaves a bad taste, though, is that the cops quickly determine that the man was poisoned. And that the poison was in the popcorn. High school junior Sophie mans the snack counter, and her worst crime is that of being a half-hearted Goth. Since there’s no real break in between films (they show shorts) there’s no way to know exactly when the guy died. But it obviously happened at Comedy Tonight. While the police are investigating, they discover several boxes of pirated DVDs in the unused basement of the theater. The chief suspect there is the projectionist, Anthony, a Cinema Studies student at Rutgers. Up until now, his worst crime has been… being a Cinema Studies student at Rutgers.

When the police decide that the two crimes are connected, Anthony becomes their number one murder suspect as well. But Elliot isn’t so sure about that. With help from Officer Leslie Levant, and his ex-wife (a doctor who pays Elliot alimony,) Elliot decides the best thing to do for Anthony, and for his fledgling theater, is to look into the case himself.

Even if you’re not a movie buff, you’ll love this first book in a new series. There are movie references sprinkled throughout the narrative, but you don’t have to ‘get’ them to enjoy the mystery. Elliot is a unique character who is living his dream by owning and refurbishing the old movie house. His relationships, especially with his dad and his ex-wife, contain little quirks that speak to long familiarity and make the characters seem very real. The author doesn’t go for the zany approach here; Elliot, who narrates, has a very dry and sarcastic wit. The mystery is almost a locked room affair, and will keep the reader guessing until the end.

Rating: 7 ½
October 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21799-3 (paperback)

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