An egomaniacal movie director, an isolated island, and a decades-old murder–the addictive new novel from the bestselling author of Dear Daughter
Marissa Dahl, a shy but successful film editor, travels to a small island off the coast of Delaware to work with the legendary–and legendarily demanding–director Tony Rees on a feature film with a familiar logline.
Some girl dies.
It’s not much to go on, but the specifics don’t concern Marissa. Whatever the script is, her job is the same. She’ll spend her days in the editing room, doing what she does best: turning pictures into stories.
But she soon discovers that on this set, nothing is as it’s supposed to be–or as it seems. There are rumors of accidents and indiscretions, of burgeoning scandals and perilous schemes. Half the crew has been fired. The other half wants to quit. Even the actors have figured out something is wrong. And no one seems to know what happened to the editor she was hired to replace.
Then she meets the intrepid and incorrigible teenage girls who are determined to solve the real-life murder that is the movie’s central subject, and before long, Marissa is drawn into the investigation herself.
The only problem is, the killer may still be on the loose. And he might not be finished.
A wickedly funny exploration of our cultural addiction to tales of murder and mayhem and a thrilling, behind-the-scenes whodunit, Pretty as a Picture is a captivating page-turner from one of the most distinctive voices in crime fiction.
(From the book blurb)
It’s the same world as yours. I just notice it differently.
Meet Marissa Dahl, an endearing film editor, who might be perceiving the world slightly differently from you – she is clearly on the spectrum and has to work very hard to survive in this world of human interactions, body language, smiles, jokes, irony, meaningful looks and silences. Marissa is also brilliant at what she does. She lives, feels and breathes movies. She thinks in movie scenes .They are her anchor in this ever changing mysterious world.
Give me a movie and I’ll find the meaning; I’ll find the truth; I’ll find the story. Sometimes I’ll find all three.
When Marissa perceives Amy, her best friend / film director she has been working close for a very long time with/ flatmate needs some time and space for her relationship with Josh, Marissa with her characteristic sensitivity moves out. Now she needs to get a job as soon as possible and she can’t be choosy. Her agent arranges an interview during which Marissa is shown a still and is asked to analyse it. Marissa correctly guesses it is from a true crime movie and is hired on the spot. Normally she would ask for a script, but the director is so well-known that she is willing to put up with a few eccentricities. She is whisked away onto an isolated island where the actual crime occured. The murder has remained unsolved. Everything about this production feels wrong. There is an ex-SEAL who is providing security, nobody would talk about why the previous film editor was fired, and there are also weird accidents and mishaps. Marissa starts investigating.
My mind has a way of latching on to questions, like a dog with a bone. A wagon with a star. A Kardashian with a revenue stream. The only thing that’ll work it loose is an answer.
I fell in love with Marissa and her quirky sense of humour. The events are narrated from her point of view, so we get to know this kind and selfless character really well. There are also excerpts from a hilarious ‘true crime podcast‘ which features interviews with secondary characters. The podcast was created by Grace and Suzy – two courageous and extremely creative teenage girls. These aspiring detectives, who happen to be children of cooks working in the hotel/production set, managed to do things even an experienced security professional couldn’t have imagined were possible. I love the way Marissa always behaved as a mature and responsible adult with them. There are other fantastic secondary characters you will enjoy reading about, including the above mentioned ex-SEAL.
The book is full of names and movie references, which I didn’t mind at all. To be honest, I had to look up a few of them. For me, in a subtle (or maybe not so subtle) and ironic way, it mirrored the way Marissa navigates the world that keeps throwing information at her which everybody seems to know about and understand, while she needs to study it carefully before she can determine its relevance and significance.
Without giving away too much of the story, it is also a brilliant exploration of authenticity and its role in our culture.
Well-written, fast-paced, extremely entertaining, but also deep and thought-provoking, Pretty as a Picture was a delight to read. I will be looking forward to reading any future book written by Elizabeth Little and I wish this one all the success it deserves.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Viking for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
‘I would like to give you a hug, but I also want to respect your bodily integrity. Because it’s totally okay if you don’t like hugs’ Grace says, coming over. Suzy nods. ‘Never forget you’re the boss of your own body’.
I should let them. I really should. I should gather them close and reflect on the ease of their affection, the astonishing breadth of their compassion, and I should resolve, from this point forward, to set aside my fear and discomfort and displeasure, and embrace, literally and figuratively, mankind’s limitless capacity for love. I can almost hear it now: the satisfying plunk of a character arc slotting into place.
But maybe this arc isn’t an arc. Maybe it’s a loop, emphatically closed. Maybe I shouldn’t have to change: a radical thought.
Too radical for me, I think. Because I don’t want them to feel unappreciated or worry they’re unlovable or think I’m wrong- or think they’re wrong.
So I open my arms and beckon them near…Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little