Valentino is a film detective, a man that tracks down rare and historic films to be preserved and restored. Matthew Rankin is a developer who has a complete copy of a Greta Garbo's rare first film, a commercial entitled "How Not To Dress". When Rankin shoots his assistant dead, he brings Valentino in to explain why he did it. It seems the assistant has blackmailed him with a letter claiming that Garbo and his late wife had a lesbian affair and then became violent, so Rankin shot him. In exchange for Valentino being a witness who can clear his clearing his name, Rankin offers Valentino Garbo's first film.
Like all good mysteries, all is not how it seems, however, and the rest of the book has Valentino fighting with his best friend, his girlfriend, a corrupt building inspector that is keeping him from completing work on his lifelong dream of owning a theater, and a dogged detective who hates people of privilege and believes Rankin actually committed a murder in cold blood, not self defense.
Loren Estleman has crafted an entertaining book that is a must for lovers of film history. The book is not a suspenseful page turner, but the light and breezy tone, well crafted characters, and Estleman's obvious love of the subject matter will keep readers turning pages.