Book Title: Cast The First Stone
Author: James W. Ziskin
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: Ellie Stone #5
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Detective
Date Read: 06/02/17
Pub Date: 06/06/17
February 1962: Tony Eberle has just scored his first role in a Hollywood movie, and the publisher of his hometown newspaper in upstate New York wants a profile of the local boy who’s made good. Reporter Ellie Stone is dispatched to Los Angeles for the story. But when she arrives on set to meet her subject, Tony has vanished. His agent is stumped, the director is apoplectic, and the producer is dead.
Ellie is on the story, diving headfirst into a treacherous demimonde of Hollywood wannabes, beautiful young men, desperately ambitious ingénues, panderers, and pornography hobbyists. Then there are some real movie stars with reputations to protect. To find the killer, Ellie must separate the lies from the truth, unearthing secrets no one wants revealed along the way. But before she can solve Bertram Wallis’s murder, she must locate Tony Eberle.
How fitting is it that my 100th book of the year turned out to be a 5 star read? I couldn’t have timed it better myself; while I’ve enjoyed the previous 4 books Ziskin has written immensely I had no idea the treat I was in for when number 5 came my way. Historical Fiction is by no means my go-to genre, but I do like to dabble in it from time to time as I’ve found some real gems that aren’t set in a contemporary world. The real appeal to the Ellie Stone series is how it defies genre barriers; while the themes are classically tied to the 1950’s and 1960’s, the writing feels so fresh and current that you almost forget it isn’t set in a modern time period. Ellie is charm and class all wrapped in a tight bundle of independence and feminism, and I dare you to not be completely taken in by her humor and wit. While each Stone novel contains one or more mysteries to be solved, they also deal with important issues surrounding the era, namely the mistreatment of women, racial minorities, and the GLBT community. This one focuses heavily on the latter and felt more timely and urgent than anything Ziskin has written before.
Ellie Stone is my number one pick for a fictional best friend; this girl feels like my soul mate and it pains me to think that even if she were real, somehow we would miss each other like passing cars due to a generational age gap. No matter, I’ll just continue to pretend I’m tagging along as her sidekick on these cases she seems to fall into. Up until CAST THE FIRST STONE, I really enjoyed books 1 and 4, but 2 and 3 were my favorites. After finishing #5, I feel like this might be in the running for my favorite Ellie Stone novel now! The plot was extremely well executed, the characters were as real as my family sitting next to me, and the atmosphere was simply divine. I loved following Ellie and the crew all over California and could practically taste the salt on my lips and smell the rain that plagued most of her trip. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but you should know going in that there isn’t ever just one “big twist” in a Ziskin novel. Even if you figure out certain parts, you likely won’t solve the entire story before all is revealed. This is the type of mystery where you can close the book, sit back, and appreciate the sheer depth and complexity of the plot that is multi-layered and rich beyond other forgettable mysteries.
I tend to have a hard time hanging on to series past the third book; don’t ask me what it is, but somehow it’s the make-or-break point for me. It seems that is the point where the author either loses steam or tries to come up with a change of plot that causes me to lose interest; not so here. I feel the author only gained traction from the dreaded three book mark and continues to produce novels that draw me in completely. Needless to say, this is one of the handful of series that I have continued along with and will do so for as long as the books keep coming. If you aren’t wanting to start a new series just yet, don’t fret; this is easily read as a standalone and is one of the few series where I feel you don’t have to particularly read them in order. Highly, HIGHLY recommended for fans of traditional, whodunnit mysteries. Even if you aren’t a fan of historical fiction, I would implore you to pick up a book featuring Ellie Stone. This is one of the few series of books out of the hundreds I read per year that is worth your time, money, and energy to support; Ellie is a firecracker and I’m so glad we haven’t seen the last of her.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here.
Check out the first 4 books in the series and see what Ellie has been up to!