The book picks up where the movie Detour, a film noir classic, leaves off. In the movie, a man named Al Roberts follows the woman he loves to Hollywood after she jilts him to seek a movie career. Two people die along the way, and Roberts is ultimately arrested for murder.
When the novel begins, Roberts has been incarcerated for thirty years and is up for parole. Attorney Jimmy O’Brien is appointed by the court to represent Roberts at his parole hearing. It should be easy, right? The inmate just has to say how sorry he is and the board will consider parole. Of course, they could deny it, but Jimmy’s job would be done either way. And how hard can it be to say you’re sorry when you confessed to the murder thirty years prior? But now Roberts is denying it all. And O’Brien’s job just got a lot more complicated.
The story takes you through the tangled lives of Hollywood stars and politicians, while more bodies pile up and even O’Brien’s life is at risk. It would help if Jimmy O’Brien knew when to keep his mouth shut, but then he wouldn’t be Jimmy.
My favorite thing about Detour to Murder is the trip into old Hollywood from the 40’s through the 70’s. It puts you right in the mix of it all, a glamorous time with all the deceitful things that go with it. In addition, the characters are interesting, the plot is fun, and the twists keep cropping up. And even if you do figure out “whodunit,” I bet you won’t know why until the very end.