Frog in a Bucket (An Eddie Collins Mystery, Book 5)
Kindle $5.99, paperback $14.99
Coffeetown Press Aug. 2021
Eddie Collins is working on a movie. He and other actors, dressed in suits, sit at banquet tables playing show biz trivia to pass the time. Finally, the filming is about to begin. An assistant director calls for quiet. The banquet speaker, played by veteran actor Tony Gould, his mane of silver hair in place, stands at the lectern, adjusts the microphone, then keels over.
The collapse is not in the script. A doctor is summoned, then an ambulance.
The shooting is finished for the day, and as the actor is carted off the hospital, Collins has time to ponder a small mystery with his wardrobe suit coat. That morning he’d noticed a tag sewn into the jacket with the name Ken Thompson on it and the words Crash and Burn. The name probably belonged to the actor who used the suit before, and likely the words identify the name of a movie. In the pocket of the jacket Collins finds a finds a key attached to a metal disc with the word Pandora engraved on it.
With just a little work, Collins discovers that Thompson did act in a picture called Crash and Burn. Understandable, but Collins is skeptical. Costume companies don’t usually stitch names into costumes. And what about the Pandora key?
An actor might not have enough curiosity or interest to carry his inquiry any further, but Collins is also a private investigator. Several years ago economic necessity prompted him to find supplemental work and his “tendency to stick my nose into places it probably shouldn’t belong” prompted him to open a detective agency.
Back on the set next morning, Collins gets two surprises. The first is word that Gould has died. The second surprise arrives when he steps into the trailer that serves as his dressing room on the movie lot. A white young man with grungy dreadlocks is snooping through his clothes. The man says he’s looking for a key. He gives Collins double talk saying he was cleaning out Gould’s dressing room and was told that a key was missing. Before Collins can pin him down, the guy dashes out the door and disappears in the bustling studio.
Is there a connection between Gould and Thompson? What does the Pandora key unlock? How did Gould die? Collins considers the questions while the production resumes temporarily and film executives debate a replacement for Gould.
Collins learns that Gould died of an insulin overdose; he finds that Gould and Thompson worked on Crash and Burn together; and a Burbank police detective appears on the set to ask questions about Gould’s death. The actor/detective is promptly dragged into a layered mystery involving a private production company and a decades-old missing persons case.
Following Collins through movie sets and along Hollywood streets is a pleasure. The story flows smoothly with author Clive Rosengren’s relaxed, easy first-person writing style and sense of humor.
A driver pulled up along side and then abruptly cut in front of me and roared off, blonde hair flying in the wind. I honked and flashed her a digital salute.
“You think that did any good?” Carla asked.
“Probably not, but it’s the gesture that counts.”
The story’s movie-set authenticity comes from Rosengren’s 40 years as an actor, nearly half of that in Tinsel Town. Speaking of authenticity, movie buffs will appreciate some of the trivia questions Collins and his fellow actors trade during down-time on the set. Don’t expect any “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn” questions. These are for true movie aficionados .
And the story is not all laughs as you’ll be reminded of Hollywood’s real-life dark side. But Collins adroitly handles the bad with the good. Follow along. It’s a thoroughly entertaining and exciting trip.
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Clive Rosengren was an actor for nearly 40 years appearing on stage and in movies and TV. He is a multiple Shamus Award nominee by the Private Eye Writers of America. His other Eddie Collins books include Murder Unscripted, Martini Shot, Velvet on a Tuesday Afternoon and Red Desert. He lives in southern Oregon.