Let’s All Kill Constance

By Ray Bradbury
ISBN: 0-06-051584-8

Tags: Mystery, Modern-Day Fantasy

Rating: ★★★★★

[from the publisher] On a dismal evening in the previous century, an unnamed writer in Venice, California, answers a furious pounding at his beachfront bungalow door and again admits Constance Rattigan into his life. An aging, once-glamorous Hollywood star, Constance is running in fear from something she dares not acknowledge — and vanishes as suddenly as she appeared, leaving the narrator two macabre books: Twin listings of the Tinseltown dead and soon to be dead, with Constance’s name included among them. And so begins an odyssey as dark as it is wondrous, as the writer sets off in a broken-down jalopy with his irascible sidekick Crumley to sift through the ashes of a bygone Hollywood — a graveyard of ghosts and secrets where each twisted road leads to grim shrines and shattered dreams … and, all too often, to death.

REASONABLY HONEST DISCLAIMER: Ray Bradbury is the man who made me want to be a writer. He was and is my mentor, and I can rattle off a goodly number of names of other writers who find him no less magnificent than I do. It is natural that I will find his work amazing almost without exception, and I will be prejudiced in his favor. Like the protagonist in this book (unquestionably the man himself), my glasses are certifiably rose-colored when gazing upon the work of the master. So sue me.

Bradbury’s Death is a Lonely Business created an astonishing rethinking of the classic noir murder story, with not only a genuinely unique type of murder, murderer, and motive, but also a totally new means of observation, detection, deduction, and solution. A second novel in this series, A Graveyard for Lunatics: Another Tale of Two Cities, opens on Halloween Night of 1954, where our unnamed author is hired by a huge movie studio to write a new screenplay, and he makes the terrifying discovery of the graveyard behind the back lot where more mysteries dwell and old ghosts have yet to be laid to rest. This novel, set in 1960, brings us back again to the writer and his uncanny ability to find, to sense, to uncover the most impossible mystery of them all, and to solve it with a leap into the fantastic that none could be prepared for. It is, after all, what sparks the mind on a dark and stormy night.

Yes, my faithful readers, he did it: The first line of this novel is indeed It was a dark and stormy night. It is followed with Is that one way to catch your reader?

Well, then, it was a dark and stormy night with dark rain pouring in drenches on Venice, California, the sky shattered by lightning at midnight. It had rained from sunset going headlong toward dawn. No creature stirred in that downfall. The shades in the bungalows were drawn on faint blue glimmers where night owls deathwatched bad news or worse. The only thing that moved in all that flood ten miles south and ten miles north was Death. And someone running fast ahead of Death.

To bang on my paper-thin oceanfront bungalow door.

That, by damn, is how you catch your reader!

Thrusting her Books of the Dead into our hero’s hands and vanishing into the maelstrom, Constance’s entire life becomes a haunting mystery, itself haunted by a Hollywood long gone. Where once giants walked — Garbo, Dietrich, Valentino — only black-and-white ghosts flicker in the ruins of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, in a cathedral where sinners hold sway, in the labyrinthine corridors of a hut filled to overflowing with newspapers carrying history that yellows and wastes without anyone left to remember. These strange places, with even stranger people, become the locations that our writer must explore to find the clues, the remnants, the revenants of Constance Rattigan.

It’s not a ride that you’ll soon forget, for like Death is a Lonely Business and A Graveyard for Lunatics before it, Let’s All Kill Constance is as much about the why- as the how- and whodunit. Among the suspects – Constance’s first husband, her brother the priest, her psychic who predicted the course of her life (and her death?), the barely-alive projectionist at the abandoned palace-that-was of Grauman’s… each with a means, motive, and opportunity that only the maddest and most fantastic of authors could perceive much less bring to its amazing conclusion.

Fair warning: This is not your traditional gumshoe, amateur detective, or cozy mystery. You must be prepared to scale the heights of an abandoned trolley car line and sink into the depths of the storm drains below the earthquake-rattled streets of southern California. You must look into the history of film and the future of a writer unbound to Earth or time. You must risk reaching into your own passions to discover how much, how far, and how truly Passion must be followed through life and death and life again. It’s well worth the journey.

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