Summary and book reviews of Windhall by Ava Barry

Windhall

by Ava Barry

Windhall by Ava Barry X
Windhall by Ava Barry
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  • Published:
    Mar 2021, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jordan Lynch
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About this Book

Book Summary

A stunning literary thriller in which an investigative journalist in modern Los Angeles attempts to solve the Golden Age murder of a Hollywood starlet.

1940s Hollywood was an era of decadence and director Theodore Langley was its king. Paired with Eleanor Hayes as his lead actress, Theo ruled the Golden Age of Hollywood. That ended when Eleanor's mangled body was discovered in Theo's rose garden and he was charged with her murder. The case was thrown out before it went to trial and Theo fled L.A., leaving his crawling estate, Windhall, to fall into ruin. He hasn't been seen since.

Decades later, investigative journalist Max Hailey, raised by his gran on stories of old Hollywood, is sure that if he could meet Theo, he could prove once and for all that the famed director killed his leading lady. When a copycat murder takes place near Windhall, the long reclusive Theo returns to L.A., and it seems Hailey finally has his chance.

When Hailey gets his hands on Theo's long-missing journals, he reads about Eleanor's stalkers and her role in Theo's final film, The Last Train to Avalon, a film so controversial it was never released to the public. In the months leading up to her death, something had left her so terrified she stopped coming to work. The more Hailey learns about Avalon, the more convinced he becomes that the film could tell him who killed Eleanor and why she had to die. But the implications of Avalon reach far beyond Eleanor's murder, and Hailey must race to piece together the murders of the past and present before it's too late

PROLOGUE

I dreamed of that night a hundred times. The gates of Windhall thrown open to greet a procession of ghostly cars, dazzling apparitions gliding up the drive. The garden, filled with deadly flowers and orange blossoms, the night sky a bowl of stars. And Windhall itself, blazing with light, all the windows thrown open to the summer air.

Most of all, I dreamed of Eleanor. She arrived late to the party that night, hours after the band had switched from lively swing to something sweet and melancholy. There wouldn't be very many details of that night that the papers missed, since the host was one of the most famous people in Hollywood. Reporters would obsess over the attire, the music, the guest list. I had seen hundreds of pictures of the attendees, the giddy starlets and men in their tuxedos, eyes bright with alcohol and opportunity. They had always reminded me of the doomed aristocrats in some wicked fairy tale, all those gods gathered in one place, unaware that one of their own...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Windhall is a fast-paced, cleverly-plotted murder mystery that exalts the opulence of Hollywood's Golden Age while also exposing the dark side of the studios and the damaging, sometimes deadly, consequences to those who defied the powerful elites. Although the novel does suffer from a lack of character development, the detailed descriptions give the reader a comprehensive picture of the era and area where Eleanor Hayes was murdered, and Hailey's efforts to solve the mystery keep the plot moving...continued

Full Review (838 words).

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(Reviewed by Jordan Lynch).

Media Reviews

Shelf Awareness
An intoxicating throwback. This highly cinematic modern-day mystery, which revolves around a 70-year-old unsolved murder, is a sparkling homage to Hollywood's Golden Age.

BookPage (starred review)
Windhall is Barry's first novel, and it is one heck of a debut. She nails her protagonist's first-person voice and vividly channels the Hollywood vernacular and vibe both past and present.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Vibrant characters match the intricate plot. This thrilling mystery is essential reading for fans of Hollywood's golden age.

Booklist (starred review)
Barry parallels the cutthroat natures of journalism and film, skillfully blending a nuanced millennial perspective with noir shadings and a haunted-house atmosphere.

Author Blurb John Copenhaver, award-winning author of Dodging and Burning
At once a cold case mystery and a love letter to Hollywood during the height of its golden age, Windhall is a dark romance of place, from its shimmering Gatsby-esque parties to the shadowy mise en scène of its crime scenes. Barry's prose is precise, vivid, and seductive; the lure of the past is so potent in the mind of the main character, the intrepid journalist-on-the-case, that you feel his obsession deepening page after page. It's a gorgeous, bedeviling, and compulsively readable debut not to be missed fans of historical mysteries and Hollywood lore.

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Beyond the Book

The Black Dahlia Murder

1947 LAPD flyer featuring black and white picture of Elizabeth Short In Windhall, the murder of Hollywood starlet Eleanor Hayes is the unsolved crime of the century. Eleanor's friend and movie director Theodore Langley was initially accused of the crime, but he was never charged, and speculation abounds as to what exactly happened on that unfortunate night. Although Eleanor Hayes and her murder are fictional, real-world Hollywood has seen its fair share of unsolved murders, perhaps none so famous as the brutal killing of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, an aspiring actress who posthumously became known as the Black Dahlia. Like the murder in Windhall, Short was killed in the 1940s, and her death held Hollywood and the nation in thrall.

Elizabeth Short was born in 1924 in Boston and grew up in the midst of ...

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