Blog Tour Review: Pretty as a Picture – Elizabeth Little

Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

About The Book

Don’t end up on the cutting room floor

Some girl dies. Film editor Marissa has read better loglines for films, but still jumps at the chance to travel to a small island to work with the legendary – and legendarily demanding – director Tony Rees.

Soon she discovers that on this set, nothing is as it seems. There are rumours of accidents and indiscretions, of burgeoning scandals and perilous schemes. In the midst of this chaos, Marissa is herself drawn into an amateur investigation of the real-life murder that is the movie’s central subject.

The only problem is, the killer may still be on the loose. And he might not be done.

My Review

Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little is a locked room mystery situated on a film set on an isolated island. The movie being shot is the fictionalised version of the very real unsolved murder of a young woman which took place a number of years earlier. Our protagonist is Marissa Dahl, a film editor who is drafted in when shooting is well underway to replace the existing editor who has left the project for reasons not disclosed. The celebrated and acclaimed director, Tony Rees is known for working his cast hard and for striving for the perfect shot. He is also known for being a bit of a tyrant and Marissa’s only previous encounter with him ended up with her accidentally knocking him into a fountain.

Alarm bells should ring for Marissa when she is asked to sign an NDA, or when she is escorted to a boat to take her to the island, or when she arrives at the set and the atmosphere is decidedly off. And they do, to an extent, but she is also intrigued about the movie and she knows that this is her big opportunity to really succeed in Hollywood. She’s also trying to escape a precarious situation where she equally loves and hates her best friend’s boyfriend.

Things start to get a bit weird, and I won’t tell you why or how, but what starts off as a weird atmosphere soon develops into the bizarre and dangerous. Marissa is caught well and truly in the middle of it all and finds herself trying to find out what exactly is happening and who really killed the young woman all those years earlier.

I really liked this book which is a love letter to Hollywood and movies. There are a number of references to classic films which somebody far more movie educated than I (I am notorious amongst my friends for my lack of film knowledge) would spot and use to put together the clues, but I still loved. Marissa lives and breathes films, she sees things in terms of movies, looking at things with an editor’s eye, trying to work out how things fit together and so, the prose has an almost cinematic feel. In fact, I did feel like I was in a film on more than one occasion. There is definite storytelling, intrigue and tension and at it’s heart a big old locked room mystery, which felt very vivid.

It did take me a little while to ‘get’ Marissa and her thought processes. She is quite socially awkward, sarcastic and her mind leaps from place to place. I was a little confused at times and it did take a moment to find the rhythm of the prose, but this was my issue and not the book. I was curious though, and I like being curious about a book. I really wanted to know what was going on, because there was something definitely Not Right on that film set, and I really loved hating Tony who is just one of those fantastically awful people. And I really wanted to know if one of the characters was based on Robert Pattinson.

Little clearly knows her stuff, because this felt really authentic. The depiction of power play between a director and his minions, the way the actors are treated, the staff working in the hotel trying very hard not to stare at the movie stars wandering round the place and the intricacies of a film set are all brought to life. The mystery is also great and there are some wonderful interludes in the narrative from a podcast hosted by two teens who have turned detective Nancy Drew style.

Bearing in mind this is a book about murder it is a fun read with much to admire. It is well paced, has a great protagonist and lots of intrigue to boot. Recommended!

About The Author

Elizabeth Little

Elizabeth Little

lizabeth Little is the Los Angeles Times–bestselling author of Dear Daughter, Pretty as a Picture, and two works of nonfiction, Biting the Wax Tadpole: Confessions of a Language Fanatic and Trip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America’s Languages. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, McSweeney’s, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among other publications.

Dear Daughter, her debut thriller, was nominated for the Barry and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel, longlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger, and won the Strand Critics Award for Best First Novel. Pretty as a Picture is now available from Viking.

Elizabeth lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Where You Can Buy It

My thanks to Poppy Stimpson at Pushkin Press for an invitation to join the Blog Tour and for a copy of the book.

Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little is out now in both paperback and ebook.

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