The Devil’s Playground by Craig Russell: 5*****

Extraordinary!!! A wonderful stand-alone mystery novel by Craig Russell in which he delves into legends and mysteries from the Golden Era, the Silent Movie era of Hollywood. This is a wonderfully crafted work that takes us back and forth in time from 1967 to 1927, and then even further back to 1890 and 1897 to introduce us to characters and a plot that is intricate and spellbinding. It all begins with the death of Hollywood star Norma Charlton and is mostly seen through the eyes of Carbine Studio fixer, Mary Rourke who is tasked by the studio owner to figure out who killed Norma. Norma was part of the alleged cursed production of the epic silent movie The Devil’s Playground of which there is alleged to be only a single copy remaining. In 1967 Dr. Paul Conway is on a mission to find that elusive copy which takes him to Sudden Lake, California to a former hotel which may very well hold the secret to the lost film. We also are introduced to an alleged voodoo queen in the Louisiana swamp and the author takes us even further back to introduce many aspects of the plot, all of which add to the mystery of Norma’s death, the cursed movie production, and missing young girls who flocked to Hollywood in the early days of film to become the next big star. Just a well done plot and a well written book. Meticulous research on many aspects of Hollywood including the now defunct Hollywood Studio Club, the goat-gland guru John Romulus Brinkley, and much, much more. Yes, this is a novel, but it transports you back in time and with such realism that you feel that these events actually happened. Mystery, suspense, horror, thriller?? You pick your genre, for me it is just one heck of a great book!!!!!! An enthusiastic 5*****, and a hope that the author will return to those yesteryears of Hollywood with an array of scandals that could launch a series of books dealing with the Golden Age of Movies!

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