The best crime novels about Hollywood

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been hooked on the magic of storytelling since childhood, always eager to go wherever imagination can take me. I think that early fascination led me to become a costume designer because costume design is about using clothing to help tell a story. I spent 27 years working on the costume design teams for films like Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Angels & Demons, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. When I decided to take what felt like a logical creative step, to write my own stories, I knew I wanted to write murder mysteries. And I thought the world behind the scenes of a movie would make the perfect setting.   


I wrote...

Final Cut

By Marjorie McCown,

Book cover of Final Cut

What is my book about?

Every day on a big-budget Hollywood movie set is full of surprises, but the last thing key costumer Joey Jessop expected to find on the first day of shooting was the body of a murdered coworker. Because Joey found the body and the victim was seeing her ex, she immediately becomes a suspect. Then the story blows up in the press and social media – and Joey finds her well-ordered life in shambles. That’s when things really start to go wrong for Joey and the movie as a series of dangerous mishaps interrupt the shoot. As circumstances spiral out of control, Joey is forced to take matters into her own hands to try to salvage her career and to save her own life. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Barbarous Coast

Marjorie McCown Why did I love this book?

This twisty, hypnotic story by the great Ross Macdonald focuses on the dark side of the Hollywood dream.

Private detective Lew Archer is drawn into the search for a missing woman, Hester Campbell-Wall, who seemed poised on the cusp of success via an oblique connection to Helio-Graff Studios when she vanished after a frantic phone call to her estranged husband.

Against his better judgment Archer agrees to look for Hester, a quest that pits him against the powerful and corrupt studio head, Simon Graff. The book is full of complex characters who are neither all good nor all bad, despite their acts of betrayal, deceit, and even murder.

That’s what makes them so poignant and believable: in various ways, they are all broken by dreams that didn’t come true. 

By Ross Macdonald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Barbarous Coast as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The beautiful, high-diving blonde had Hollywood dreams and stars in her eyes but now she seems to have disappeared without a trace. Hired by her hotheaded husband and her rummy “uncle,” Lew Archer sniffs around Malibu and finds the stink of blackmail, blood-money, and murder on every pricey silk shirt. Beset by dirty cops, a bumptious boxer turned silver screen pretty boy and a Hollywood mogul with a dark past, Archer discovers the secret of a grisly murder that just won't stay hidden.Lew Archer navigates through the watery, violent world of wealth and privilege, in this electrifying story of obsession…


Book cover of Lost Light

Marjorie McCown Why did I love this book?

In the ninth book featuring Connelly’s iconic character, (now retired) LAPD detective Harry Bosch, the quintessential modern knight errant is working a case that’s haunted him for years – the murder of Angella Benton.

Her death might be linked to a bold and bloody robbery of 2 million dollars from a movie set where she worked as a production assistant, but neither crime was ever solved. Now Harry is intent on finding Angella’s killer.

The story is set against the backdrop of the movie industry and the celebrity-obsessed culture of Hollywood. Unimpressed by the trappings of power, Harry follows his instincts, led only by his guiding principle, “Everybody counts or nobody counts.”

But this time, he’s on his own without a badge or backup, and when his investigation hits very close to home, Harry finds himself facing brutal enemies determined to strike him down. 

By Michael Connelly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lost Light as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning No.1 bestselling author Michael Connelly's ninth Bosch book. Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch has retired from the Los Angeles Police Department - but the discovery of a startling unsolved murder among his old case files means he cannot rest until he finds the killer.

When he left the LAPD, Bosch took a file with him: the case of a production assistant murdered four years earlier during a movie set robbery. The LAPD thinks the stolen money was used to finance a terrorist training camp. Thoughts of the original murder victim were lost in the federal zeal, and when Bosch decides to…


Book cover of Hollywood Homicide: The First Detective by Day Humorous Mystery

Marjorie McCown Why did I love this book?

This award-winning mystery novel sparkles from beginning to end with the vitality and charm of its heroine, Dayna Anderson, a self-aware former actress whose claim to her 15 minutes of fame was a series of popular commercials for a fast-food franchise.

Now retired from the limelight, Dayna’s fallen on hard times financially but never loses her sense of humor – or hope. When she spots a billboard offering a reward for information about a fatal hit-and-run that she semi-witnessed, Dayna decides to investigate to collect the cash, not only for herself but for her parents back in Georgia who are in danger of losing their home. 

If this book were a movie, it would be a mystery-romcom-buddy picture mashup with an exuberant cast of characters plus plenty of action and plot twists to keep you guessing. Great good fun!

By Kellye Garrett,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Hollywood Homicide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dayna Anderson doesn t set out to solve a murder. All the semi-famous, mega-broke black actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. After witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she figures pursuing the fifteen-grand reward isn t the craziest thing a Hollywood actress has done for some cash. But what starts as simply trying to remember a speeding car soon blossoms into a full-on investigation. As Dayna digs deeper into the victim s life, she wants more than just reward money. She s determined to find the poor woman's killer too. When she connects the accident to a notorious…


Book cover of Last Looks

Marjorie McCown Why did I love this book?

Charlie Waldo, the reluctant hero of this debut novel by a former TV writer, lives in self-imposed exile in the San Jacinto Mountains with a flock of chickens and the one hundred things he allows himself to own – a conundrum he continually struggles with (is a pair of socks one thing or two?).

Waldo is doing penance for his former life as a hotshot LAPD detective when his aggressive tactics put an innocent man in prison for life.

But Charlie’s world is upended when his ex-girlfriend, private investigator Lorena Nascimento, embroils him in a murder investigation involving TV star Alastair Pinch who may or may not have killed his wife. Alastair, a blackout drunk, can’t remember.

Charlie is complicated, funny, empathetic, and (it turns out) still a dogged and skillful investigator. The story is entertaining and unexpected – well worth a read!

By Howard Michael Gould,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last Looks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE!

A razor-sharp, exquisitely paced, madly fun debut thriller that gleefully lampoons Hollywood culture and introduces the highly eccentric yet brilliant ex-detective gone rogue: Charlie Waldo

There are run-of-the-mill eccentric Californians, and then there's former detective Charlie Waldo.

Waldo, a onetime LAPD superstar, now lives in solitude deep in the woods, pathologically committed to owning no more than one hundred possessions. He has left behind his career and his girlfriend, Lorena, to pay self-imposed penance for an awful misstep on a pivotal murder case. But the old ghosts are about to come roaring back.

There are…


Book cover of Get Shorty

Marjorie McCown Why did I love this book?

Elmore Leonard knew the vagaries of the movie business back to front, and he serves them up on a platter of delicious satire in this story about an East Coast loan shark, Chili Palmer, who comes to Los Angeles chasing a deadbeat debtor and winds up in his own fractured fairy tale version of the Hollywood dream.

Chili’s an endearing character, street smart with a unique blend of humility and self-confidence. When his collection job throws him into company with a group of movie people, he sees them and their milieu with clear-eyed objectivity.

Talking to an underworld associate, he says, “The movie business, you can do anything you want because there’s nobody in charge.” Leonard’s mastery of dialogue and character, along with his wit and sly affection for the industry he’s skewering combine to make this book a complete delight. 

By Elmore Leonard,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Get Shorty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A thriller filled with Leonard's signatures - scathing wit, crackling dialogue, twisted plot, mad scams - and set in the drug sodden world of Hollywood.


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Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

Book cover of Rip Current

Sharon Ward Author Of In Deep

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as a kid, I was intrigued by the underwater world, so as an adult, I learned to scuba dive. I took to it like a fish to water, and my husband and I spent the next several years traveling to tropical islands to experience the local dive conditions whenever possible. I loved learning how every island had a different culture and a different undersea environment. Since I love tropical islands, scuba diving, mysteries, and adventure stories, these books really hit my sweet spot.

Sharon's book list on mysteries set on a tropical island

What is my book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.

Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary. When a young internet influencer…

Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

What is this book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.
Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary.
Soon after a young internet…


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