My previous post recommended Rachel Howzell Hall’s new novel, as well as her back catalogue (seriously, why are you waiting?). Another Black writer to feature on BestBub’s 100 Best Crime Novels Of All Time is Kellye Garrett. Eight years of working in Hollywood, including writing for the TV show Cold Case gave Kellye an insider’s view on the rat-race that is entertainment’s premier capital town. Like Rachel, Los Angeles is in Kellye’s heart, blood, and soul.
Her two books to date feature Dayna Anderson, an actress who was well known for being the face behind the Chubby Chicken commericals (I don’t think so, boo!), and is consistently almost recognised wherever she goes (Didn’t we go to high school together?). Now broke and unable to afford gas, Dayna has taken up residence in a room the size of a closet at her best friend Sienna’s apartment. She’s a proud woman who refuses to capitalise on her fame, instead she’s focusing on how she can save her parents’ home from going into foreclosure.
An opportunity arrives in the form of a billboard asking for information on the hit-and-run death of local shop worker Haley Joseph. As luck would have it, on the night of the incident, Dayna and her friends were witnesses to what would turn out to be murder. There’s a $15,000 reward offered for any imformation that leads to apprehension and conviction. So Dayna decides there and then to become an amateur sleuth. This is the premise for the first Detective By Day novel, Hollywood Homicide.
We are introduced to Dayna’s friends. Sienna I’ve mentioned briefly, but she’s a hoot. Chasing Instagram likes and trolling Twitter feeds for gossip, Sienna opens doors that were once held open for Dayna, as well as casting off her considerable collection of shoes and clothes to Dayna once she’s done with them. With an ego the size of a small planet, Sienna is ever-present at Dayna’s side, even when they fall out (which is a lot over the two books). Emme is more than just a computer nerd: she’s the anti-social twin sister of Oscar-nominated actress Toni Abrams, and deserves a series devoted to just her. Omari Grant is Dayna’s on-again-off-again boyfriend. Now the leading man of a cop show franchise, Omari and Dayna’s relationship hits more hurdles than an out-of-shape athlete, but the spark (once it hits) is dynamite. Completing the main cast is Aubrey S. Adams-Parker, an enigmatic ex-cop with a weird taste in orange reflector suits, who may or may not be in need of a partner.
And that’s not all. Add in Nina, Omari’s agent and (in book two, Hollywood Ending) a murder suspect, and The Voice at the other end of the police tip-line, the wonderful support cast is complete. Suspects come and go — sometimes permanently gone — but the core group doesn’t change over the two books.
Hollywood Ending gives us a front-row seat at the Silver Sphere Awards, where Omari is nominated as Best Actor. When Lyla Davis, a publicist for Silver Sphere is killed at an ATM robbery, Dayna and her team have a crack at solving it. It’s a more complex investigation than Hollywood Homicide, and when the situation calls for it, the potential for slapstick comedy, about-turns, mortal danger, and snappy dialogue is heightened to a fantastic level.
What I love about the Detective By Day series is its wit and freshness. Dayna Anderson takes her job seriously, but her sense of self-esteem nonetheless gets a bruising over the course of the two books’ pages. Her friends, though, are always there for her, and try to keep her out of harm’s way. Yes, Dayna needs the money, but she’s a fighter for truth and justice as well. She’s also very funny. In the midst of all the murder and mayhem, Dayna has a delightfully cynical attitude to all things Hollywood, but she loves it all the same.
The intended third book in the series, Hollywood Hack, is, according to Kellye’s website, still in draft, awaiting a new publishing deal. In the meantime, she’s working on a new novel. I await both breathlessly.
Hollywood Homicide: Paperback, 306 pages. Published August 8th 2017 by Midnight Ink
Hollywood Ending: Paperback, 312 pages. Published August 8th 2018 by Midnight Ink