Blur takes Michelle Berry in the wrong direction. That's too bad, because she's a really good writer.Her first novel, What We All Want, tracked a family funeral with poignant wit. She could have pushed the emotions and the kinks a little further, but she wasn't quite ready.
That's OK in a debut novel, but a second book should take a few more chances. Instead, Berry sets what reads like a pulp mystery in Hollywood, a place whose allure -- and stereotypes -- she mines for reasons I don't get.
Sexy screen star Emma Fine disappears after her lover Ted is found dead in her swimming pool. Ten years later, Bruce, a near failure of journalist, goes back to the story to bring home the one huge paycheque that will change his life. But just as he's about to zero in on Emma, he's seriously distracted by the arrival of his wife and may-be-gay son.
Mysteries can be fun, but every element of this one reeks of banality -- the drug abuse, Bruce's middle-aged crisis, the pettiness of Tinseltown's desperately ambitious people.
Berry shows glimmers of talent when she writes about things that matter. The details on multiple cosmetic surgeries and their effects are brutal, and episodes evoking Emma's past as a sexually exploited child star have real teeth.
But basically, this is one of the year's deep disappointments.