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Pretty as a Picture
Cover of Pretty as a Picture
Pretty as a Picture
A Novel
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A Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times, and CrimeReads Best Mystery Book of 2020 "Funny, fast-paced, and a pleasure to read." —The Wall Street JournalAn egomaniacal movie director, an isolated island,...
A Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times, and CrimeReads Best Mystery Book of 2020 "Funny, fast-paced, and a pleasure to read." —The Wall Street JournalAn egomaniacal movie director, an isolated island,...
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  • A Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times, and CrimeReads Best Mystery Book of 2020
    "Funny, fast-paced, and a pleasure to read." —The Wall Street Journal
    An egomaniacal movie director, an isolated island, and a decades-old murder—the addictive new novel from the bestselling author of Dear Daughter

    Marissa Dahl, a shy but successful film editor, travels to a small island off the coast of Delaware to work with the legendary—and legendarily demanding—director Tony Rees on a feature film with a familiar logline.

    Some girl dies.

    It's not much to go on, but the specifics don't concern Marissa. Whatever the script is, her job is the same. She'll spend her days in the editing room, doing what she does best: turning pictures into stories.
    But she soon discovers that on this set, nothing is as it's supposed to be—or as it seems. There are rumors of accidents and indiscretions, of burgeoning scandals and perilous schemes. Half the crew has been fired. The other half wants to quit. Even the actors have figured out something is wrong. And no one seems to know what happened to the editor she was hired to replace.

    Then she meets the intrepid and incorrigible teenage girls who are determined to solve the real-life murder that is the movie's central subject, and before long, Marissa is drawn into the investigation herself.

    The only problem is, the killer may still be on the loose. And he might not be finished.
    A wickedly funny exploration of our cultural addiction to tales of murder and mayhem and a thrilling, behind-the-scenes whodunit, Pretty as a Picture is a captivating page-turner from one of the most distinctive voices in crime fiction.

Excerpts-

  • From the cover

    One

    Not that I manage to say any of that out loud.

    Of course I don't.

    Sometimes I think everything wrong with my life can be located in the space between what I should have said and what actually came out of my mouth. No matter how hard I try, no matter how well I prepare, the right words are, for me, forever out of reach. Not because they catch in my throat. A cat hasn't got my tongue. None of the usual phrases apply. It's a more comprehensive kind of collapse. When faced with any real conversational pressure, my personality just goes offline, AWOL, and no matter how hard I try, it doesn't respond. Catastrophic system failure.

    Speak, I tell myself in those moments. Speak.

    Like I'm Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, lying barefoot in the back of that truck, gritting my teeth and trying to force my insubordinate body to bend to my iron will.

    Speak.

    But I'm not Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. I didn't train with Gordon Liu. I don't know the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, and I don't have the body to pull off a yellow leather motorcycle suit. So I never get my toe to move. I never drive that truck to Vivica A. Fox's house. I never get revenge and I never find my daughter. I just starve to death in a hospital parking lot.

    And in real life, when asked to explain to a potential employer why I'm the best candidate for a job I desperately need, I don't deliver a rousing monologue about the exhilarating, all-encompassing, soul-shifting, life-shaking power of cinema. Instead I just comb my fingers through my ponytail for the seventeenth time while mumbling something about my work ethic.

    Then, to top it off, I shrug-I shrug-and I say:

    "I just really like movies, I guess."

    My agent makes a sound so pained I'm genuinely worried I might have killed her.

    I don't know what else Nell expected; it's been six years since I've had to look for work. Six years since Amy hit it just big enough that we could coast from feature to feature to feature without having to hustle for work we hated in the interim. It took some doing-the plumbing in the Mid-City two-bedroom we shared was more vague promise than functional reality, and six nights a week we ate rice and beans we bought in bulk-but eventually she was able to stop taking AD gigs; I was able to stop doing TV. We found a rhythm that worked for us, postproduction bleeding into preproduction and back again, and if I didn't have time for a social life, I wasnÕt particularly bothered: I got to live and work with my very best friend.

    But last month I decided it was time to start thinking about getting my own place, and Amy and I put the new movie on hold so we could figure things out.

    It didn't take long to realize that blowing up my personal and professional lives all at once wasn't exactly the smartest thing I could have done. For about three days it felt freeing. But then I ran out of new-release movies to go see.

    And so, this afternoon, I found myself pacing the inadequate length of my short-term rental in Burbank, restless, anxious, fingers fluttering at my sides. I had finally managed to work up the nerve to send a few emails to old colleagues, hoping I could pick up an episode or two of I truly didn't even care what, but either they didn't remember me or they were all out to lunch or Google was down for everyone but me.

    By two p.m., my nerves-already frayed by the arrival of my credit card statement-drove me to a desperate act: I made a phone call. I left a message for my agent explaining that Amy and I were taking a break, that I needed a job, and, therefore, that I might actually be willing to take her advice for...

About the Author-

  • Elizabeth Little is the author of Dear Daughter, which won the Strand Critics Award for Best First Novel, and two works of nonfiction, Biting the Wax Tadpole and Trip of the Tongue. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 25, 2019
    When film editor Marissa Dahl, the misfit narrator of this smart, cinematically steeped page-turner from Little (Dear Daughter), agrees to replace the most recent crew member canned by megalomaniacal auteur Tony Rees from the hush-hush true crime mystery he’s shooting on a tiny island off the Delaware coast, she has no idea what she’s in for. But once she arrives on location at the stately hotel where, in 1994, 19-year-old aspiring actor Caitlyn Kelly was found dead on the beach in a case that was never solved, it doesn’t take long for even someone on the autism spectrum like herself to spot alarming danger signals. Then again, it’s tough to miss the explosion of a bank of lights on that set that showers the leading lady with shards of broken glass—in what the editor learns is just the latest in a string of ostensible freak accidents that have plagued the production. The twisty plot becomes overly convoluted, but Little scores with the achingly vulnerable Marissa, whose specific set of skills enables her to see the big picture before anyone else. Psychological thriller fans will be well satisfied. Agent: Kate Garrick, Karpfinger Agency.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Juiia Whelan and author Elizabeth Little are casting perfection in this murder mystery cum witty send-up of the film industry. The mayhem, including murder, occurs while filming a movie about a real-life murder on a resort island off Delaware. Our protagonist, Marissa, a film editor hired to replace a previously fired editor, stumbles into trying to solve both murders. Whelan's choice for Marissa's voice--low, straightforward, slightly uninflected--is just right for a character who's uncomfortable with people and social nuance. The other characters, from British heartthrob to wide-eyed female staffers and self-important director, are equally revealing. And her narrative pace expertly supports the action, be it pulse-pounding, comic, measured, or romantic. Movie buffs and mystery lovers everywhere, rejoice. A.C.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine

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