BWW Reviews: Peter S. Fischer's PRAY FOR US SINNERS
PRAY FOR US SINNERS, recently published by Grove Point Press, is author Peter S. Fischer's latest installment in his Hollywood Murders series. The man who brought us Jessica Fletcher brings us Joe Bernardi, who's everything that Jessica Fletcher isn't - except for sharp and inquisitive. He's a Hollywood publicist, working for the studios; he's worked his way up from a third-rate shop to, now, working with Alfred Hitchcock.
Life is good, no? Well, no. Joe's got a girlfriend writing kiddie books, an ex-girlfriend he's got a detective chasing, and now he's in Montreal with Hitch, and he's met a gorgeous film commission executive who's helping the studio get Hitch's film made. Or she would be, if she weren't in jail for killing her ex, the day after she and Joe have gone out for dinner and her ex crashed their private party.
Adding to the bliss is Montgomery Clift, since Hitchcock is trying to film "I Confess". Hitch and Monty don't see the actor's art in the same way at all, and there may be another murder pending if Hitch gets his hands on Monty. And there may be more murders yet if Joe can't figure out who's leaking the news of Hitchcock's and Clift's rift to the daily papers. The Montreal press and the cheap trade rags are equally desirous of a scoop or two, and they'll stop at nothing to get them, just as some Buffalo-area Mafiosi seem willing to stop at nothing to prevent a local trial from finishing, even if some lawyers have to die in the process.
It's all in a day's work for Joe, whose job as a publicist involves putting out fires - even if it means he has to solve a crime or two himself along the way. If only the police detectives in Montreal weren't also out to get him.
Colorful characters abound in the story, none more so than Joe himself - except for the wildly true story around which the murders are woven, that of Hitchcock's and Clift's difficulties during the filming of "I Confess." Fischer's skillfully woven the true, gossip-worthy story of the Montreal shoot into his murder mystery, and Hitch has never felt more real, including in either of the recent films about him. Alma Reville, Hitchcock's right-hand assistant and wife, also makes an appearance, doing what she did best in real life - making sure that Hitchcock's films made their way to the screen.
The plot abounds with chases, confusion, and red herrings, along with Monty Clift's personal problems. But whether he's being chased and shot at, distracting a reporter, or dragging an intoxicated Clift out of a bar when Elizabeth Taylor can't come to Canada to calm him down, Joe's got a fix for the problem. After all, that's his job.
Now, if only he had a fix for the women problems in his life. Relationships? Those really can be murder.
A fun, fast read, with great historical details about both Montreal and the filming of "I Confess". It's Fischer doing what Fischer does best - combining a solid mystery with some Hollywood glitz. He did it for television for years, and now he does it with Joe Bernardi in print. For mystery fans who like the old-fashioned conceits of an amateur detective and a fantastical setting with a properly plotted mystery that has a plausible solution (and one that an astute reader could indeed work out themselves, but not immediately), this should fill the bill nicely.