Lights, Camera, Murder

ometimes you can’t judge a book by its cover, or at least its first few pages. The two pages of opens Della Borton’s “Fade to Black” displays the groan-inducing family tree of Adam and Eve Liberty, originally Adolph and Eva Liebowitz when they disembarked from Ellis Island, New York. After making their way to Hollywood, they established themselves in the motion-picture business, eventually begatting three generations of Libertys were named after the town’s brightest stars and characters: Douglas, Gloria, Valentino and Clara in the silent era, Clark, Lana, Marlowe and Greer during the studio era, and Shane, Marilyn, Dustin and Marlon more recently. After spending their working lives as actors, technicans, screenwriters or some other job, most retired to Eden, Ohio, where “Fade to Black” is set.

We’re not alone in looking askance at the Liberty family. When the family’s matriarch dies, she leaves the theater she owns in Eden, Ohio, to Gilda, who had refused to follow the family trade and, instead got her MBA and moved to New York City.

But Eve Liberty’s death sends some uncomfortable ripples through the family, and no sooner than Gilda had unpacked before she’s dealing with snooping relatives, a mysterious murder/arson case, possible blackmail and a detective who knows more than she’s telling.

While the Liberty clan as a whole may be a few scenes shy of a script, they come with a complete complement of the Seven Deadly Sins. “Fade to Black” is a light-hearted mystery with some weight to it, and unlike some Hollywood movies, sequels to this debut will be highly welcome.

Update 2/25/00: A sequel to “Fade to Black,” called “Freeze Frame,” was published.

Update 2/7/05: Another sequel, “Slow Dissolve” was published.