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Tarnished Idols by Susan Schoeffield
Free Murder Mystery

Genre/Category: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
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Tarnished Idols by Susan Schoeffield
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Synopsis

The first book in the Silver Screen Murder Mystery series. The story centers around Peter Gregory, a well respected playwright and screenwriter, and Jennifer Deane, a screen goddess who supposedly committed suicide fifty years ago. Because of Peter’s life-long obsession with this Hollywood legend, he is hired by a major movie producer who finds him the perfect candidate to write a screenplay about this idol. Peter, a man with an endless array of quirks, begins to unravel the secret threads surrounding Jennifer’s life and death. Never believing that she took her own life, Peter tries to piece together the puzzle of this fifty-year old mystery. Along the way, he meets several characters as quirky as himself, and these people either want to help him in his quest or put an end to it, even if it means putting an end to Peter ...


Excerpt:

Scandals. The studios dreaded them, the fans devoured them. As for Jennifer Deane, the subject of a steady stream of rumor and innuendo, the scandals were now devouring her.

For nearly all of her fifteen-year professional life, Jennifer skated the thin ice between one sordid headline and another. Always, the gossipmongers, caring only for the story and never for the source, followed their target in hot pursuit.

The ice beneath her began to crack. Jennifer knew she would soon be plunging to the unfathomable depths of a broken career. And to Jennifer, that amounted to a broken life.

There is a fine line between perception and reality. In the state of paranoia, those lines are even more indistinguishable. To say that Jennifer Deane was paranoid was, perhaps, not saying nearly enough. Her life and her career were one continuous drama played out on the world stage. That world adored her in the beginning and, truthfully, continued to adore her in spite of itself.

It was true that the career she had worked on so feverishly appeared to be in shambles. The film going public, a hypocritical mass of humanity that was secretly titillated by the excess of her lifestyle, was now openly vehement in its outrage. A legion of moviegoers was threatening to boycott any film produced by Pinnacle Pictures, the home of every film Jennifer ever made.

The title of her latest film lent itself quite easily to the poisoned pens of her most severe critics. “In this instance, All That Glitters is definitely not gold!” The actress whose talents were once considered brilliant and limitless was now unmarketable and far too risky for a studio that once survived bankruptcy by her presence alone.

But even the best filmmakers made bad films once in a while. And scandals alone did not kill a career. Where fact and fiction intertwined was in the studio‟s response to her fall from grace. Perhaps the truth would never be completely known or understood.

What mattered at this moment was how Jennifer perceived her demise. To her, loyalty was never a factor when potential profits were on the line, and she saw the studio acquiescing to public demand. The Sex Goddess had to go. In response to the public outcry, the studio brass began the heartless, calculated destruction of one of its own.

Bound by a contract giving her little or no control, Jennifer appeared in a string of less than forgettable films. Pinnacle Pictures, her protector and haven of safety, was now the enemy forcing her out of an industry she had glorified in as the ultimate sexual fantasy. The future was clearly defined and Jennifer, herself, acquiesced. Each day brought new revelations, new turmoil. Her spirit of fierce pride and determination was broken, her dreams and aspirations shattered, her strength to fight was gone.

Maintaining her sense of professionalism, she obediently followed the studio‟s command.

Without protest, she allowed it to extinguish the flame that had once been Jennifer Deane.

As her value in the movie market dropped, so did her bank account. Her beloved mansion, her palace of success, high atop Beverly Hills, was no longer within her financial means. As she vacated its premises, most of her prized possessions were left behind.

She found herself now in a much smaller house. Gone were the lush trees, manicured lawns and well-ordered gardens. Missing from view were the tennis courts and swimming pool. The only sights in this neighborhood of Hollywood disgrace were the nondescript houses of other tarnished idols, has-beens whose names could not be remembered until death restored them, if only briefly, to the limelight of glory and fame.

Here, in what she considered her palace of failure, Jennifer wandered aimlessly from one tiny room to another. She stumbled over cartons containing the few, meager belongings that remained. In her hand, she carried a bottle of wine, her all-consuming passion and only friend.

She tripped over an unseen object and collapsed on a nearby sofa littered with other bottles long ago emptied. Her mind was ravaged not so much from the alcohol as from the confusion of her thoughts.

The story would break tomorrow. She knew that and, although she thought she was ready, deep inside she wasn‟t. It could be the end of everything she had left. She doubted very much if Jennifer Deane could once more rise to the challenge and take control of an ugly situation. Times had changed and she believed there were few to care about her fate, including, at the moment, herself.

The cold steel pressed against her temple.

“Funny,” she thought to herself, “I don‟t remember finding a gun in all this mess.”

Nor did she remember picking it up. Had she lived long enough, she would not have remembered pulling the trigger.