Monday, April 6, 2015

Dead To Me by Mary McCoy

Dead To Me by Mary McCoy
Release Date - March 3, 2015
Publisher Website - Disney-Hyperion
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 304 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**


Here is the Goodreads synopsis
LA Confidential for the YA audience. This alluring noir YA mystery with a Golden Age Hollywood backdrop will keep you guessing until the last page.

"Don't believe anything they say."

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her--and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn't a kid anymore, and this time she won't let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets--and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie's attacker behind bars--if Alice can find her first. And she isn't the only one looking

Evoking classic film noir, debut novelist Mary McCoy brings the dangerous glamour of Hollywood's Golden Age to life, where the most decadent parties can be the deadliest, and no drive into the sunset can erase the crimes of past.
The usual ending to a Hollywood story is the happily ever after with a fade to black. Dead To Me examines the darker, seedier side to Hollywood. The one that isn't all glitz, and glamour. Mary McCoy adeptly weaves together a story of secrets, lies and endings that do not promise those sun drenched happy endings of Hollywood lore.

Mary McCoy's writing is effortless. She captures the atmosphere of Old Hollywood perfectly. It immediately brings to mind detectives in trench coats, crooked cops, and a dame in distress. It reads like an old black and white detective movie and it's one of the novel's biggest strengths.

The characters didn't resonate with me as much as I would have liked. There wasn't a connection built that made me invest in the outcome and didn't make the stakes feel as dire as they could have. The exception to this is Alice. She's wonderfully crafted, and flawed. She's plucky, imperfect, and complex. Her side of the relationship and how she relates to others is nuanced. Her relationship with her sister especially represents this. She loves her sister, looks up to her in a way, but feels like she doesn't know her any longer. She isn't sure how her sister came to wind up in the hospital and each new revelation about her life widens that gap between them. It also changes her opinion of her sister. In the end it's a mix of awe, love, guilt, anger, resentment and a feeling of abandonment that rushes out. It made that relationship feel more realistic as it was so carefully constructed. If I had connected to the characters more, felt more deeply about them, it would have strengthened how much I liked this book.

The mystery element is darker, creepier and more sinister than I expected. The truth of who isn't nearly as intriguing as the why and once you have a majority of the clues it's easy to figure out who is behind everything. There are more than a few surprises though in terms of the why and how of everything. The journey in this case is more exciting than the outcome, but it's the journey that makes it worth it in the end.

There is some commentary about young girls in Hollywood, particularly runaways, and how they are treated by those around them. It's not explored to it's full potential and more of a background thing that grabs your attention. The mention of the Black Dahlia murder in particular hammers this point home. These girls are used up, and tossed aside. They were seen as disposable. Mentions of casting couch situations, girls disappearing, and people looking the other way when a young girl is being taken advantage of all add together to form a bleak, but important picture. The most striking aspect that I took from the novel was the willingness to look the other way. To ignore that a young women is being victimized. This is a story of women banding together, and looking out for each other ultimately, and this element brought that poignant point home even more.

While I enjoyed the atmosphere, writing, and mystery, it was the characters who prevented me from forming a connection that would have transformed this into a stunning novel rather than an okay read. Those who appreciate Golden Age Hollywood, mysteries that are entirely plausible, and solid writing will enjoy this YA noir style novel.

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