Magic Hour

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Multimillionaire film producer Sy Spencer has been shot twice near his swimming pool at home on Long Island. Detective Stephen Edward Brady, former teenage delinquent, Vietnam vet, former junkie, and recovering alcoholic, is called in to work on the case. Told from Steve’s point of view, this mystery introduces the reader to myriad prima donnas, not only in the film industry but also in law enforcement. Most of the novel centers on the developing relationship between Steve and Bonnie, Sy’s former wife, a screenwriter and the number-one suspect. Theirs is a love-hate affair. Steve begins with an almost pathological need to prove Bonnie guilty of Sy’s murder, yet at the same time he feels a certain sexual attraction to her. Shortly after he discovers a surprising piece of information, he does an about-face and becomes her knight in shining armor. As the novel climaxes, he rides to save the damsel he was responsible for putting into so much distress, and the two join forces to solve the mystery.

Susan Isaacs has evidently done her research, and she achieves an air of verisimilitude in the two professions of homicide investigation and filmmaking. In the front matter, the author acknowledges the police officers who provided her with technical advice. Her familiarity with the film industry (and perhaps her sympathetic portrayal of Bonnie) stems certainly from her experience in seeing two of her own screenplays produced, COMPROMISING POSITIONS (1985) and HELLO AGAIN (1987). Although Isaacs’ narrator tends to dwell on titillating sexual fantasies and insists on using a certain four-letter word for punctuation, his is an interesting point of view of the circuitous route to the solution of this murder—a murder that will prove to have an ironic twist.