four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
44-Jan-Feb-2010
By: 
Joseph Kanon
user_rating: 
0

A-StardustJoseph Kanon is the best-selling author of The Prodigal Spy (1998), Alibi (2005), The Good German (2001) (made into a feature film starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett), and the Edgar Award–winning novel Los Alamos (1997).

The Story: In 1945, Ben Collier returns to Hollywood from war-torn Europe just in time to watch his screenwriter brother, Danny, die shortly after an apparent suicide attempt. While his sister-in-law believes Danny killed himself, Ben wonders if his brother was helped off that Cherokee Hotel balcony. As he launches his own investigation, Ben uncovers troubling evidence of his brother's involvement in a fledgling anti-Communist movement spearheaded by a vicious congressman. It turns out that in Tinseltown, many people may have wanted Danny silenced for good.
Atria. 512 pages. $27.99. ISBN: 9781439156148

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"Kanon gives a reader the feeling that she's stepped onto a 1945 movie set, where the onstage storytelling isn't nearly as fascinating as what's going on behind the scenes. The dialogue, as crisp and revealing as James Ellroy's without being quite so terse, demands that one actually pay attention." Joy Tipping

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"This may sound like a basic thriller formula, but Kanon operates with an intelligence that briskly evokes the atmosphere of a vanished era. ... Kanon, a romantic at heart, makes the case that in the end honest labor, not malicious conniving, creates the magic of the movies." Maria Russo

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"The dialogue is pitch-perfect, a kind of jazzy patter that feels filmic itself. Kanon has been compared to Graham Greene, and the shared cinematic sensibility has never been more evident." Erika Recordon

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Jospeh Kanon's prose in Stardust is eminently noir, all cigarette smoke and magnesium flashbulbs, and while it sometimes veers dangerously into arch imitation, it's a fitting appropriation, using Hollywood's own language to examine the guilt, artifice, and paranoia that once lurked behind the gauzy close-ups of the silver screen." Keith Staskiewicz

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It's delectable stuff, and Kanon ... renders it in sharp prose that's punched up by lines worthy of Bogart or Mitchum. ... Stardust might not keep you up all night, but it's got enough going for it to hold you till midnight." Gerald Bartell

Critical Summary

Stardust could very easily have fallen victim to the clichés that plague lesser noir fiction (picture busty dames, gruff detectives, and smoky bars). Fortunately, critics thoroughly enjoyed Kanon's expert recreation of midcentury Los Angeles and were particularly entertained by the cameo appearances made by Hollywood notables. Although the Washington Post noted a "lack of dimension" surrounding protagonist Ben Collier, other critics praised the complexity of Kanon's secondary characters. Overall, reviewers hailed Stardust as a terrific read as well as an intelligent and engaging historical mystery.