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Book Review: ‘Beverly Hills is Burning’ by Neil Russell

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When you think of authors for thriller or crime novels, who do you think of? Raymond Chandler? Ian Fleming? Dan Brown? How about Neil Russell?

beverly-hills-is-burningI’ve reviewed his work before. His previous novels City of War and Wildcase: A Rail Black Novel both received high marks from me. So when he reached out about Beverly Hills is Burning: A Rail Black Novel, how could I say no?

This one takes a modern day mystery set in the cutthroat world of Hollywood producers, directors, writers, and actors and mixes in some classic mob intrigue, sex scenes that made me blush, and strong female characters who demanded attention. As per usual, Rail Black is the main character of the story in the present, but this time he was balanced out by Barrie Fontaine, pilot and seeker of adventure in the 1930s.

Though Black is a Delta Forces operator with an infinite bank account, Fontaine is a sassy dame with a knack for finding trouble. And both stories are tied together by a necklace that shows up in the very first line of the book: “It was just after midnight when the girl in the blue diamond necklace fell out of the sky.”

Russell starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until every single plot thread is wrapped up neatly with a bow. He seamlessly works history into the mix, pulling in characters like Lucky Luciano and Howard Hughes to lend an air of realism to the gritty violence and big money deals worked across the United States, Mexico, and Cuba. Each time he would switch from one timeline to the other I wondered what new tidbits he was going to tempt us with. There’s even a bit of a paranormal angle to keep things interesting!

As an avid movie watcher, the world behind the scenes in Hollywood that Russell describes was eye opening. Though I hope there aren’t many hitmen and thugs wandering through Beverly Hills killing people and blowing things up on a regular basis, there are distinct parallels between the board rooms and actor guilds of today and the old school mobsters of the 1920s and 30s when you think about it. Perhaps the power is now in the hands of producers and lawyers instead of gun-toting gangsters, but that isn’t too far from the days when gangsters could ruin lives with a few words in the right ears.

Beyond that, I will give you a word of warning. If you’re not into scenes of graphic sex, drug use, and violence, Beverly Hills is Burning may not be for you. As Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap would say, this one goes “to eleven.” If you can accept that, you’re in for a hell of a ride.

Check out Beverly Hills is Burning on book store shelves today and be sure to pick up Russell’s previous books while you’re there.

For more about author Neil Russell, be sure to check out his home page as well: neil-russell.com.

Beverly Hills is Burning: A Rail Black Novel (The Rail Black Novels) (Volume 3)
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About Fitz

Fitz is a software engineer and writer who lives in Colorado Springs, CO, with his family and pets, trying to survive the chaos!