The Prostitutes' Ball
Review: LAPD homicide detective Shane Scully gets assigned — against his vehement protests — a new partner to investigate a triple homicide at a mansion in the Hollywood Hills in The Prostitutes' Ball, the 10th mystery in this series by Stephen J. Cannell.
The case has media circus written all over it. First, the victims include hotshot producer Scott Berman, "an A-list Hollywood player, one of the few world-famous producers whose name was as important as those of the stars who worked for him." Second, Scully's new partner is Sumner "Hitch" Hitchens, a cop who had sold one of his previous homicide cases to the movies, one that made $600 million worldwide. Rumor was he was aching to do it again, but Shane doesn't want his current investigation turned into a screenplay. Third, the other two victims were high dollar internet escorts, who worked for Yolanda Dublin's Double Click Club, the annual "Prostitutes' Ball" of which was attended by a confidential list of clients … before it became the crime scene just after shots were fired. Complicating matters press-wise, if that were even possible, is that the estate at which the party was being held is owned by the Dunbar family, media-shy Texas billionaires who also make up L.A.'s power elite — the playboy son Brook notably excepted on all counts.
Shane and Hitch catch a break when a surveillance video of the night of the murder seems to turn what could have been a long, drawn-out case into an open-and-shut one. But nothing is that easy, when their suspect leads them to a closed murder-suicide case from 1981 that may have some relevance today. Hitch, of course, puts a positive spin on it all: "Act One is the whole Vulcuna mess in eighty-one. That's why we gotta get busy and figure that out. Then our complication comes in Act Two … culminating in three new murders. Then Act Three is going to be the breathtaking resolution that brings these two murder cases together in a spectacular conclusion that nobody in the audience sees coming."
Cannell packs a lot of fast-paced entertainment in The Prostitutes' Ball. The book is organized in the manner of a screenplay ("The Inciting Story Event", "Act One", "Act Two", "Act Three", "Epilogue"), a clever nod to both the characters and to how the plot is structured. The two cases have some unexpected plot twists to them and, as predicted by Hitch, a conclusion no one sees coming. But the real treat here is the dynamic between Shane and Hitch, two cops — and characters — who could not be more different yet play to each other's strengths.
The Prostitutes' Ball may be Shane Scully's last case; Stephen J. Cannell died suddenly just prior to the book's publication. One never knows, however, how many more completed or partially completed manuscripts the prolific author may have been working on at the time of his death. It would certainly be a thrill to see Shane and Hitch work together again.
Acknowledgment: Hilsinger-Mendelson West provided a copy of The Prostitutes' Ball for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Prostitutes' Ball: Los Angeles, California
— ♦ —
The Prostitutes' Ball by Stephen J. Cannell — A Shane Scully Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: October 2010
List Price: $25.99