Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Renting Silence"

Mary Miley is the winner of the 2012 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Novel Competition. She grew up in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and France, and worked her way through the College of William and Mary in Virginia as a costumed tour guide at Colonial Williamsburg. After completing her masters in history, she worked at the museum and taught American history at Virginia Commonwealth University. As Mary Miley Theobald, she has published numerous nonfiction books and articles on history, travel, and business topics.

In 2013 Miley introduced her Roaring Twenties series with The Impersonator, then followed it with Silent Murders. She applied the Page 69 Test to the third book in the series, Renting Silence, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Turning to Clara I said, “You must have known her better. You’ve been living here for how long?”

“Almost four years. And yes, I knew her well. I liked her. She came from New Orleans, and I’ve got family in Baton Rouge, so we had that in common. She was a good friend, sober, and determined to succeed. Not scatterbrained and morally bankrupt like so many young girls today.”

“She wanted to be a screen star,” I prompted.

“And she was making progress. She had some credible parts, not just extras.”

“Were you here the day she was killed?”

“I was downstairs in my own room, so I heard nothing until someone screamed. I rushed upstairs.” She set her teacup on the table and gazed toward the window as if looking into the past. “It was monstrous seeing her on the floor like that, and then carried out on a stretcher. The amount of blood she lost convinced me that we wouldn’t meet again in this lifetime, and I was right. I was shaking so badly I could hardly make it back to my room and once there, well, I couldn’t sit. I just paced until one of the policemen stopped by to ask me what I knew. He looked around my rooms while I answered his questions. I wish I could have been more helpful. I knew of no one who would want to harm Lila. She was always so pleasant and generous. Later that night, I remembered I still had her caracul coat that she’d lent me the previous week. The pretty gray one, remember it, Emma? Well, the last thing I wanted was for someone to think I’d stolen it, so I crept upstairs to her room and returned it to her closet. And you know what? Someone had been there before me.”

She came to an abrupt stop, like a stage actress who has lost her place in the middle of the play. I waited, but when she showed no sign of continuing, I prompted, “What do you mean?”

“Only that there were a few items of clothing on the closet floor. Lila had beautiful clothes and she took good care of them. She didn’t toss them on her closet floor harum-scarum like an ill-bred schoolgirl. No, someone had been in her room after her death and helped themselves.”
Blackmail is an ugly crime in any era but particularly in the 1920s’ Hollywood, where rumors about homosexuality, illegitimate children, and extra-marital affairs destroy careers, ruin lives, and even lead to murder. Open to page 69 of Renting Silence and you’ll find Jessie, the former vaudeville performer turned silent film script girl, playing the role of a country girl come to Hollywood to be a star, just so she can investigate a murder that occurred in a boarding house. She’s asking a couple of the boarding house residents what they knew about Lila, the murdered woman.
Learn more about the book and author at Mary Miley's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Impersonator.

The Page 69 Test: Silent Murders.

My Book, The Movie: Silent Murders.

--Marshal Zeringue