Joey Jessup is very good at her job. And it is a job that she really enjoys. Joey is a key costumer and over her career she has worked on almost every type of film, with a number of A-list actors and directors, along with some of the most talented costume designers in the industry. Joey knows how to get the job done without drawing unnecessary attention to herself.
Joey’s current job is on the next big-budget Hollywood superhero epic. This is a huge production, with a budget to match. And it is being directed by Marcus Pray, a director with an ego that makes the production, and the budget, look like an indie film in comparison. Joey almost didn’t take the job because, along with his ego, Pray has a reputation for being difficult at best and progressively abusive and reckless with his cast and crew. In addition to working for Pray, Joey also had to consider the fact that her ex-boyfriend, Eli Logan, will be working on this film as the first assistant director and has recently started dating Courtney Lisle, the second assistant director. Working on this production will be a challenge, but Joey is certain she can be professional with Pray, Eli, and Courtney for the duration of the production. And this job affords her the chance to work from home over the months the film is being shot, which is a valuable luxury to someone used to living out of a suitcase for long periods of time. So, she took the job and is using all of her professional skills with the local resources to pull off superhero movie magic on-time and on-budget.
On the first day of principle photography, Joey discovers Courtney’s body on the set. Given her past with Eli, the police consider Joey to be a person of interest in the investigation of Courtney’s murder. Joey knows she didn’t do it. The production is a closed set, so there must be a murderer among the cast and crew. Joey now finds herself at the center of a production maelstrom and a murder investigation. Can she figure out who killed Courtney, and why, before someone else, possibly herself, gets hurt?
In Final Cut, former costume designer turned author Marjorie McCown takes readers “behind the scenes” on the closed set of a big-budget Hollywood production for a marvelous whodunnit. McCown deftly walks a literary tightrope. For those with limited or no knowledge of how movies are made, she defines the different people on set, their functions, and describes how the controlled chaos of a motion picture production actually functions. For those who are familiar with, or may be part of, the entertainment industry, the novel is sprinkled with references that only insiders will understand (for example: Left Coast Costumes in the novel, is clearly a reference to Western Costume, one of the oldest and best known businesses in the entertainment industry).
The mystery presented is believable and McCown peppers the plot with multiple suspects, dead ends, and “MacGuffins”. Her characters are well drawn and interesting. Two in particular stand out: Joey, the novel’s protagonist, and director Marcus Pray. Joey is a delight. A confident and self-reliant woman who knows her job, Joey proves repeatedly how/why she has earned a sterling reputation within her industry. It is refreshing to see a professional woman in her prime portrayed in this manner.
In sharp contrast is Marcus Pray. Pray has a well-earned reputation as well. He is a known sexist, with an ego as large as his film’s budget, and a sense of entitlement that is equally expansive. He is known for being all of these things, and worse, but is tolerated in the industry because his films make money. McCown allows readers to observe how these characters, and their reputations, are perceived, and enabled, by their peers. She also illustrates how Pray’s ability to make money is repeatedly used to justify his intolerable behaviour by the very people that could hold him accountable, if they would choose to do so.
Final Cut is listed as being the first in a new mystery series. Let’s all hope that we’re able to join Joey Jessup on set again soon for her next adventure!
Read an interview with the author here.