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The Doom List by Gerard O’Donovan (Book review)

THE DOOM LIST Gerald ODonovan

Goodreads Description

July, 1922. Newly-appointed ‘movie czar’ William H. Hays is about to arrive in town on a single-minded mission to clean up Hollywood. He is said to be compiling a list of ‘undesirables’ whom he plans to bar from screen work. They call it the Doom List.

With the industry in the grip of fear and paranoia, Hollywood’s hottest young director Rex Ingram is determined that no hint of scandal should mar the premiere of his new movie, The Prisoner of Zenda, and hires private investigator Tom Collins, a fellow Irishman, with instructions to protect his leading lady’s reputation at all costs. But, as Collins discovers, Barbara La Marr isn’t the only member of the cast hiding a dangerous secret.

Meanwhile, a body is discovered in the Baldwin Hills to the south of the city. Could there be a connection? Against his better judgement, Collins is drawn into a case of scandal, forbidden love, blackmail . . . and cold-blooded murder.

Thursday Quotables Meme

I usually don’t like stories set in Hollywood. And I usually don’t like historical fiction about real famous people. Yet, this mystery novel is set at the dawn of the Hollywood industry and it involves a lot of famous people (mostly actors) and I loved it.

I don’t know how many real facts are in this book. There’s a note at the end where the author tells of a few true events included in the story, all very cursory. But everything feels real to me. Certainly credible.
The plot is complex – it involves three different mysteries that eventually come together – but it’s generally easy to follow because it is so solid and logical.
There’s nothing extravagant about these mysteries. They sound very plausible, even the ones involving the stars. And it’s quite remarkable because a lot of politics is involved: the city politics, the Hollywood showbusiness politics, the underworld politics. Sometimes, this kind of things end up sounding far-fetched, but not here.
The setting is really very good.

Thursday Quotables The Doom List

And so are the characters, though I may find the stars’ personalities a bit over the top. But maybe that’s the way they really were. Who knows? Of most of them, I knew little more than the names.
The everyday people instead is incredibly relatable.
Tom Collins, the protagonist, is a great character. He is a former New York cop who removed to Hollywood when the film industry moved there and worked for one of the big studios in the security for a while. I love his dispassionate outlook on life, the way his mind works quiet and steady. I get a sense that he has seen a lot and there’s very little that can rattle him. And still, he is a very compassionate man, and there’s a feeling that that compassion also comes from his work. He can pin down a person in the bat of an eye, but he will also often sympathise with their sorrows and even their more trivial problems.
And I like that he’s not afraid of taking chances, though he does so only when it is utterly necessary, which is, in my opinion, a great narrative trait that also feels very realistic.
The dialogues are something special. They are all crisp, natural-sounding and still to the point. It’s a pleasure to hear these characters talk.

There’s a great noir feel to the story. Hollywood does help there. The city comes off the page so vividly that it’s easy to visualise the places and the people. It helped ground myself in the story, as did the historical details, the reconstruction of everyday life, which is always what I enjoy the most in historical fiction.

All in all, it’s a brilliant story, with a fantastic pace that makes it very very hard to put the book down for the night. So I’ll forgive an ending that is a bit less clean than the rest of the story, but it’s still satisfying.

The Doom List

An Excerpt

‘This… this is what I’m talking about,’ he said, pushing the newspaper into Tom’s hands. ‘Look, read it.’

Tom was dumbfounded. It was the story Sullivan had drawn his attention to earlier. The unknown body found in the Baldwin Hills. But how could the young movie star be linked to it? Especially if what tom had been thinking about on the way over was a possibility. It didn’t make any sense.

‘I’m sorry, Ramon. I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying you know who this dead man is?’

‘I hope not.’ A small sob escaped the actor’s lips, emotion getting the better of him at last. ‘But I fear it is my friend. It must be, I think. It can only be him.’

‘What makes you think that? I mean, even the police don’t know who this guy is.’

‘They say that but how can you be sure?’

Tom shrugged, not wanting to get into that, and pointed at the paper again. ‘It says so right there.’

‘And you believe it?’ Samaniegos shook his head. ‘They say they don’t know and maybe that’s the truth, but the people who killed him know who he is, don’t they?’

Tom had to give him that. He decided to take a different tack. ‘Does he have a name, this friend of yours?’

‘Yes, of course, Gianni… Gianni is his name.’

‘Gianni what?’

‘Isn’t that enough for now?’

‘Well no, not really. Not when it comes to identify a person, it’s not. It’s the first thing the police will want to know, when we go to them.’

Samaniegos waved away that suggestion with both hands. ‘No. No police. That’s impossible, you cannot mean that.’ He moved his hands to his head, tugging at his hair violently. ‘I knew I should not have confided in her, I knew I shouldn’t.’

‘OK, OK, let’s calm it down a little.’ Tom took the young man by the elbow and guided him toward an armchair. ‘Look, why don’t we sit down and talk about this. And you can start from the beginning.’

The Thursday Quotables was originally a weekly post created by Lisa Wolf for her book blog Bookshelf Fantasy. It isn’t a weekly post anymore, not even for Lisa, but just like her, I still love to share my favourite reads on Thursday and I still use the original template which included an excerpt.


  • Sonia Dogra
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 17:43

    Thanks for the review. My kind of book.

    • Post Author
      Posted June 26, 2020 at 07:40

      It’s a really good book. And part of a series, so keep an eye on it 😉

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