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BOOK REVIEW:

Pretty as a picture : a novel

A young film editor in need of a job is offered one that, at first, seems too good to be true: working for an Oscar-winning director on a high-profile project on location. But, as we all know, if something seems too good to be true, it more than likely is. So, it should really be no surprise that the production turns out to be plagued with accidents, a temperamental director who is regularly firing the crew, and threatening the cast, and finally there is a murder.

When Marissa Dahl’s agent calls her in for an interview, she is both excited and terrified. It sounds like a great opportunity, and Marissa could really use the work, but she also knows that she isn’t always the best at handling interviews and is worried that she will say, or not say, something that will cost her the job. Marissa is relieved when she is hired on the spot, and only after a few curious questions. She is asked to sign a 16-page non-disclosure agreement, and all questions regarding the film are deflected, and her request for a copy of the script is denied. She is told she will receive the script and the answers to her other questions when she arrives on location.

When Marissa arrives at the Philadelphia airport the following day, she is met by an ex-military security guard who escorts her to a remote island off the coast of Delaware. When she arrives Marissa realizes the production is in total chaos. The film has been plagued with problems, some seemingly accidental and some the direct result of the film’s unrealistically demanding director. And then Marissa is told the film’s plot: a 25-year-old unsolved murder that was committed on the island. Many of the people that were involved in the investigation still live on the island, and that may include the killer.

In Pretty as a Picture, Elizabeth Little provides readers with an enjoyable, top notch mystery along with a skewering of the entertainment industry, and a slew of motion picture references and allusions. Little must be an industry insider, or know one, because her portrayals of how functionally dysfunctional film production can sometimes be, rings frighteningly true.

The true star of Little’s novel is Marissa Dahl, a film editor who has worked primarily with her graduate school roommate, the now up and coming film director, who is simultaneously brilliant and often racked with debilitating self-doubt. She has a near encyclopedic knowledge of film and film history, and claims that she processes her own emotions in the language of film. The result is a continuing series of references, some direct and some very subtle, to films that cover the entire range of motion picture history.

The plot is complex with clues, and red herrings sprinkled throughout the continued attempts to get the production back on track. The conclusion is both surprising and satisfying. What a marvelous book for mystery lovers and film fans alike.

The book is available in e-media.

Other books by Elizabeth Little can be found here.

Here is an interview with the author.

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