13 Hollywood Apes: A Layla Remington Mystery, by Gil Reavill

From Random House, the first of a new series of detective stories: 13 Hollywood Apes: A Layla Remington Mystery, by Gil Reavill (Amazon link). Oddly enough, this is the second such thriller involving apes that I’ve reviewed this month at The North Country Review of Books. I wish I could say that it is as good as the first one. Parts of it are, and it is certainly an original plot idea. It all starts with a California brush fire, and the murder of 13 chimpanzees at an animal care facility in the hills of Malibu. It ends with a series of gruesome murders of the staff there. Sheriff deputy and assistant district attorney Layla must unravel the twisted twine of the who and why that ties all of the killings together.

13 Hollywood Apes is advertised as a thriller and parts of it are. It’s also a police procedural, with a few brief court room scenes thrown in. I don’t give out spoilers, but I can assure you that the plot is unusual.

The problem for me is that the writing is uneven. Parts of it move along nicely with action, a few plot complications, and the usual friction between a police detective and her superior that is a staple of these sorts of stories. Other sections are slow going, including much of the first part of the book after the initial opening scene. There is a lot of unnecessary exposition. There’s a saying in writing classes: Show, don’t tell. In this story, the telling wouldn’t have been necessary in the first place, much less going on endlessly about it. In addition, paragraph after paragraph of what someone is thinking often brings an action scene to a halt in places.

Yet, other sections of the book move along at a nice clip. So, we’re left with a story that races forward, and then stalls, and then races forward again.

On the plus side is an original plot for a murder mystery. In addition, author Gil Realvill has created a nice set of characters and detective Layla Remington is a winner. Even her father — annoying as he is to his daughter — is somehow endearing to the reader.

One more gripe: Yes, we find out “whodunnit” and all, but the ending suddenly jumps ahead two years without letting us know if the detective was vindicated (or even returned to the force) or much else. The reader would like to know because he or she has invested a caring interest in her.

I’ll give 13 Hollywood Apes a good rating. Alas, with a little judicious editing, it could have been very good.


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