Cover Image: Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen

Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen

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Member Reviews

This is a book that Fiona would declare, "A solid effort, with bright snappy dialogue, but the characters are sometimes painfully one-dimensional. The tapestry of the writing is like a knit piece, warm, great for long winter evenings, but full of holes when you lift it up to the light."

The Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen was a fresh twist to the typical murder mystery. I greatly appreciated the insight into 1940's Hollywood. Was this my favorite murder mystery? No. But it isn't one that I will readily forget either.
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This book started out really great but the pace was off and it was really droney. I found myself getting distracted. The end was fine but the whole book lacked lustre. I guess I was expecting more but it totally missed the mark for me.

The characters were one dimensional and the book needed so much more

2.5 stars rounded to 3
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This book is set in 1943 Hollywood. Main character Annie is a murder mystery Broadway playwright who gets hired to work at a Hollywood studio. Shortly after moving, she falls into a group of movie biz friends, and then one of them - Fiona Farris, a harsh critic whose review upended Annie’s life - dies. The police rule it a suicide, but Annie is convinced it’s murder, and begins investigating while also getting more caught up with the group.

After a bit of a slow start, this was a fun and different one. There was a great sense of place and time with the 1940s Hollywood setting, and I loved the zingy repartee of the group of friends. And the mystery was good too!

3.75 stars
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I'm an avid reader of historical fiction and was drawn to the 1943 Hollywood setting. The novel follows NYC playwright Annie who accepts a job working for an LA movie studio after experiencing heartbreak and a desire to shake up her life. The movie studio requires all staff, including the famous movie stars of the time, to volunteer at The Hollywood Canteen, a which was a real entertainment venue for WWII servicemen. Quickly into the novel, a journalist affiliated with the main character, Annie, is found dead inside the Canteen. When a police investigation begins, Annie begins to question whether any of her new friends or colleagues could be the killer, but unwittingly becomes the primary suspect herself. Although I really enjoyed certain subplots in the novel, the main theme of the murder mystery at the Hollywood Canteen felt flat for me. I found myself skimming the end and never became fully invested in Annie's quest to solve the crime in order to clear her name.

Thank you to the author, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book to read and review.
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Unique blend of murder mystery, a tell-all of Hollywood during the war years and the personalities and wit of the Algonquin Round Table. Certainly entertaining, it had the feel of a madcap mystery from Hollywood's early years but with real secrets that were hidden by studios. A quick read with some deliciously delightful banter.
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A historical fiction set in 1940s Hollywood that has a little bit of everything. It’s full of old school Hollywood characters and all the glamour and gossip that goes with it. It is at its core a murder mystery. I enjoyed the cast of characters and the intrigue. The writing is solid, but I would say the pacing may be a bit slow for some. I would definitely recommend this for historical fiction fans as it’s also a time period not overly saturated. 

Thank you to the publisher and author for the chance to read and review this novel.
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Loved this book. It’s got a bit everything. 

Last Night At The Hollywood Canteen was a fun ‘old Hollywood’ murder mystery whodunit and I adored it. 

The old Hollywood feel seeps through the pages through the writing, humor and characters. The mystery was solid and gave me all the locked in vibes. I didn’t guess correctly and was surprised. Romantic entanglements and secrets galore kept me turning the pages quickly. 

Love that The Hollywood Canteen was a real nightclub that stars entertained soldiers at back in the forties in the real old Hollywood. 

I’m a sucker for those stars and that time period in Hollywood. Loved it!
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Last Night At The Hollywood Canteen is a 1940’s throwback mystery story set in Hollywood where stardom meets addiction meets jealousy meets frenemies meets murder. Set during the time of Bette Davis and Mickey Rooney, the story revolves around a young playwright who moves to Hollywood and befriends a band of what could only be called misfit, alcoholic, movie, music and radio stars. When one of the friends is murdered at the Hollywood Canteen, a club for servicemen to dance and relax, they know it would be in the best interest for their careers to figure out exactly what happen.

Annie Laurence is the playwright who is coming off a high. Her Broadway show was a success for the most part but due to circumstances…both leads signed with a movie company in Los Angeles, and it shuts down. Devastated at not only the loss of the show, but her relationship with the two stars, when offered a job herself, she jumps at the chance to move to LA and work on a script for a movie.

But Annie goes there with a few secrets. And when she goes to the famous Hollywood Canteen to volunteer, she sees Fiona Farris, a famous film critic who alluded to her secret in a review she did of her play, and she becomes nervous. But Fiona introduces her to a band of actors/musicians who she quickly befriends. But are they friends? The seem to love to hate each other! But things take a terrible turn when Fiona is found dead at the club. At first it is ruled a suicide, but the friends seem to think it is much more sinister. Who would have it out for Fiona? Yes, she was hated for her honesty but enough to kill?

But when the friends begin digging, they discover Fiona had been working on a mysterious story which by chance could have ruined someone’s career. But whose?

So as any narcissistic stars would do, they band together to try and discover what really happened to Fiona and what and whose secret she was trying to expose. And that of course is when everybody’s skeletons in the closet slowly surface. Annie herself is panic stricken as she knows if her secret gets out it could be the end of her career!

As for her “career” Annie has a terrible case of writer’s block and hasn’t been able to write a complete sentence since she arrived at the studio. What if she gets fired?

But the case begins to turn, and when Annie gets a brick thrown into her apartment, she realizes she’s on to something. But someone else clearly knows that as well. Then Annie is arrested for the murder of Fiona! How will she be able to prove her innocence? More important who of these friends can she truly trust? Could one of them have really killed Fiona?

Last Night At The Hollywood Canteen is a terrific murder mystery filled with gruff characters who are great at not telling the truth, who are funny and quirky who are able to keep up the facade Hollywood is known for even if it might kill them in the process. But wouldn’t that make them even more famous? Hmmm….

Thank you #NetGalley #SourcebooksLandmark #SarahJames #LastNightAtTheHollywoodCanteen for the advanced copy.
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1943 Hollywood sounds glamourous but in the midst of WW2, the stars also were doing their part to support servicemen  volunteering at the Hollywood Canteen.

Murder mystery playwright Annie Laurence finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time when a savage tongued theatre and film critic is murdered at the canteen.

Annie initially lived in New York, in a complex love and working relationship with a married couple.  When they move to Hollywood on a too good to be true offer, Annie falls apart but then finds a way to also have a new Hollywood.

Far from glitter and glamour, she is swept along in a group of new nasty self centred friends, telling lies and keeping secrets. No one can be trusted....not even the police. 

Rather than writing a murder, Annie is forced to solve it....or she will go down for it....or worse.

An interesting and diverse cast of characters....all set to lead you up the garden path as you try and solve the mystery as you read. At some stages I was very annoyed with there bickering and extended dialogue...but pushed through to reach the final conclusion I had also come to.

Thanks to Netgalley, Sarah James and Sourcebooks Landmark for my copy
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This was an enjoyable romp, with a plot that felt like the Algonquin Round Table got transplanted to Los Angeles and had to solve a mystery. That stinging Dorothy Parker-style wit was all over this book, with some genuinely funny lines. 

The trouble, though, with that type of humor is that it can get a bit tiring reading a bunch of people (however cleverly) sniping at each other. I also struggle with the idea of a person coming on the scene and instantly being integrated into a pre-existing group of close friends - as much as we'd all like to move to a new town and be immediately accepted by the hot rich queer weirdos, I think you need at least something else in play to sell us on that working out. 
But this ended up having some real stakes and a satisfying resolution to it on top of the neat and well-drawn setting and vivid characters, so I'll say overall that I had a good experience reading it and would be intrigued to check out the author's next book.

My thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for the ARC.
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Thank you Sourcebooks and NetGalley for the eARC of Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen!  All opinions in this review are my own.

I have mixed feelings about Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen.  At first, I was loving the murder mystery and it help up for a least three-quarters of the book.  I had no idea who to suspect as the murderer and the new information being added kept me guessing!  Unfortunately (and I'm not sure if this was just a me issue), I found the last quarter of the book kind of confusing.  I had a hard time keeping the members of The Club straight throughout the book and didn't realize how important that would be at the end when they were flinging accusations at each other left and right.  Overall, I did enjoy Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen and would be open to rereading it in order to try to understand more.
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I was reading this book and the voices and the characters were like those from a Bogart movie. The glamour and the sleaze, the limelight and the darkness.
It's lighter than a noir even if there's some elements. I enjoyed the well researched historical background and the well plotted characters.
The solid mystery kept me guessing.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Last Night  at  the Hollywood Canteen by Sarah James 

I received a free digital copy  of Last Night  at  the Hollywood Canteen by Sarah James from Net Galley to read and review. My thanks to the author , editor and publisher for the enjoyable novel.
   This mystery novel would appeal to anyone who loves old  movies, watching  the Turner Classic Movie channel and reading  Hollywood behind the scenes stories. You know, the “ What is ( insert star’s name here)  really like” gossip. One of the fun things about this book is attaching real names to the persons in the book. Might the snarky/ witty concert pianist “ Henry Hibbert” be based on Oscar Levant?  And the gossipy  movie reviewer , revealer of the secret lives of Hollywood, Fiona Ferris- is that Louella? If the reader is old enough and/ or a reader of Star biographies , this book will be devoured.  It is a sweet read of a mystery, full of historical scenery and the aura of glamour laced with fear of being only one flop away from dropping off the A list.
Summary: Anne Laurence has a hit  Broadway play on her hands. A good review  by  Fiona Ferris, with glowing plaudits for  the stars, Beverly and Adam Cook, means profits and  a long run.  Anne,  along with  her very close, one can say , intimate  apartment sharing friends,Beverly and Adam, are in heaven. Until, that is, Beverly and Adam get a contract at a major Hollywood studio. Even the dearest of friendships cannot withstand that allure. Beverly and Adam go off to Glitz city, leaving a devastated Anne in a nearly empty apartment with an empty life. The play closes. Anne hits the skids, emotionally and financially. The one dark day she gets an offer to go  to Hollywood to  write an adaption of her play  for the screen. 
   Anne eventually encounters her former partners at the Hollywood Canteen, which is Hollywood’s effort to provide a place where stars can “do their part  in the war effort” , with attendant publicity , of course, by hosting a venue for enlisted men to relax.  They can   dance with starlets while being served soft  drinks and sandwiches by the likes of Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth.
   In this atmosphere, an uneasy truce  exists between Anne and a jolly  clique of calling  themselves “ Ambassador Club.” Screen writers, stars, wits , musicians en-  mixed, their main recreation is drinking and insulting each other. All in good fun, until the universally feared and hated Fiona Ferris is murdered. 
 The book is a pretty good mystery by a author who has done her research into the studio star system where the big studios controlled every aspect of their hired help, when even   crimes could be covered up and fall  guys set  up to take the rap. Anne , is likeable, although, it seems way over her head when she finds herself immersed in the shark-  laden waters of Hollywood. Is Anne going to be the fall guy? Read on and enjoy.
Minor quibbles:  It can be a bit hard to keep all the inter-relationships straight, not to mention the conflicting alibis, but it is a good book, one recommended to those who enjoy a clean mystery set in the Golden Years of Hollywood. You know, this just might make for a good movie…. 
Rated Suitable for all readers.
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Prefacing this review; I normally don’t read books set historically back in time. This was enjoyable for not taking place during “current” times. I felt the overall story was good, the murder mystery appeal & the “being ahead of their times”. The sub stories of the characters, Annie included and the multi dimensions of them was interesting, including the “taboo” of their sexualities in the mid 1900’s. I learned about the actual Hollywood Canteen & the purpose. I rated the book as I did because I wanted the action to go a little quicker, but it was a slowww burn. The old school Hollywood glamour was definitely captured.. I just wanted more.
Thank you NetGalley for the ARC!
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I was so excited to read this book but there were many things that, unfortunately, didn't work for me. I was immediately drawn in to the premise: 1940s Hollywood glamour, a murder mystery, an amateur-ish sleuth. It had it all, but the execution just didn't draw me in. I felt like there were too many side plotlines/stories that interrupted the flow of the story and took away from the main storyline of trying to solve the mystery of Fiona's murder. I liked the characters, the banter amongst the group of friends was sharp and witty, and Annie was a smart, take charge FMC. Things just dragged on a bit too much for my personal liking.

Thank you Sourcebook Landmarks and Netgalley for the advanced digital copy!
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Annie Laurence arrives in 1943 Hollywood still hurting from a devastating break-up. A playwright with an acclaimed Broadway murder mystery under her belt, she comes expecting to write similar scripts for Pacific Pictures, and perhaps to show the people who crushed her how much they lost by leaving her behind. Her new bosses, of course, have other plans, assigning her to dream up a script for a musical with an inane title instead.

Less mortifyingly, Pacific Pictures also expects her to volunteer at the Hollywood Canteen, the movie industry’s glamorous contribution to the war effort. Open to only servicemen – so no officers and no civilians – the Canteen offers free entertainment, dancing and food to the thousands who come through its doors before being shipped off to fight. 

It’s while navigating the Canteen that Annie falls in with the members of the Ambassador’s Club, as they call themselves. The club is more or less headed by Fiona Farris, the acerbic film and stage critic who’s destroyed hundreds of careers. She’d actually given Annie’s play a decent review, even if she’d inserted an insinuation as to the scandalous truth about Annie’s last relationship. Wouldn’t it catch the eye of the people who hurt her, Annie thinks, if she’s seen being chummy with Fiona now?

Fiona turns out to be less horrifying in person than she is as a critic, though her inner circle definitely shares her enthusiasm for barbed wit and selective secret-keeping. To her own surprise, heartsick, intelligent, lonely Annie finds herself fitting in perfectly with her new friends. So when Fiona drops dead one night while at the Canteen, Annie feels genuinely motivated to find out who killed her. After the police rule Fiona’s death a suicide, at least half of the Ambassador’s Club angrily agree with Annie, though the others just as bitterly demand that they let it go:

It was all escalating like this, I realized, because Fiona wasn’t here. Fiona would say something so perfect, so devastating, so <i>mean</i> it would shut everyone up. Then Terry could change the subject, and we’d all move on. But Fiona wasn’t there, so the only way I could see to get this group to function again was to be her myself.

“Look, folks, I’ve only spent a few evenings with the Ambassador’s Club, and that’s been enough to make me want to kill myself,” I said. “The point isn’t if Fiona <i>could</i> have [committed suicide]; it’s if she did. Don’t you want to know for sure? Because I do.”

Getting everyone onboard is the easy part. Things get tricky when their investigation into Fiona’s death puts a target on all their backs. Soon enough, Annie is accused of Fiona’s murder herself. Will Annie be able to emerge unscathed from the seedy underbelly of Hollywood, a hotbed of corruption dedicated to preserving a wholesome image at all costs in order to keep the profits coming in, or will she become just another victim of a devious killer protected by the system?

As charming and clever as its protagonist, this murder mystery had me completely hooked, even as its emotional impact destroyed me utterly. While the particulars were quite different, it felt very much as if Sarah James had ripped my heart out of my chest and squeezed the contents out across these pages, exposing my pain for all the world to see in the form of Annie’s grief. Ms James pointedly talks about the hypocrisy of conservative morality in order to drive home the point that secrecy and intolerance have always made things worse, not better, benefiting only the cowardly and the selfish. Here, for example, the female members of the club are lamenting the choices of their friend Victor:

“He’s never going to get over the man if he keeps going home with him,” said June.

“He doesn’t want to get over him,” Terry said. “He knows he <i>should</i> want that, so he acts like he <i>does</i> want that, but what he really wants is for Henry to leave his wife and come back to him and they’ll be just like it was.”

“That’s pathetic,” I said, perhaps to cover the part of me that wanted the exact same thing from my exes. “Henry’s never going to do that. Why would he? He’s getting everything he wants right now: the respectable married life and Victor at his beck and call.”

Last Night At The Hollywood Canteen is smart, sensitive and historically accurate, with humor that is right up my alley but might possibly veer too esoteric for others (as it winningly points out about itself in at least one self-deprecating passage.) One Haydn joke in particular had me laughing like a classical-music-loving hyena. I rather wish that this novel was only the first in an ongoing series of the Ambassador Club’s adventures, but it ends perfectly as is, and is one of my favorite books of the year so far.
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When despised film critic Fiona Farris is found dead in the Canteen kitchen, murder mystery playwright Annie realizes any one of the Canteen's luminous volunteers could be guilty of the crime. To catch the killer, Annie falls in with Fiona's friends, a bitter and cynical group―each as uniquely unhappy in their life and career as Annie is in hers―that call themselves the Ambassador's Club.

This was a great historical mystery with a spunky female lead. I really enjoyed it. It was well-written and easily digestible.
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Okay to say I'm obsessed with this book would be an understatement!! WOW!

It's 1943 and Annie Laurence moves to Hollywood after a tough breakup, to hopefully start a new life writing for the movie industry. 

However, things start to turn sour whenever her new "friend" and movie critic, who seems to have had a little bit of dirt on everyone, is found murdered. 

Suddenly everyone in the Ambassador's Club group is a suspect. 
A brick gets thrown in Annie's apartment, things start to go missing and suddenly the murder gets pinned on Annie. 

It turns out that solving a murder in real life is definitely a lot harder than writing one for the stage. 

Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen is one hell of a drama filled ride and I give nothing but high praises for theis book.
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I love this time period. I love Hollywood glamour. And I love the idea behind this entire book. The mystery mixed with the glamour I love really sucked me in and I found myself flying though this book in just a few days. Of course, bummed that it was already over. I'm hoping this won't be the last we see of the Hollywood Canteen!
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Book review: Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen- Sarah James

Annie Laurence is a New York City playwright who finds herself without a job.  Her highly acclaimed murder mystery comes to an abrupt end when her co-stars, and “closest friends,” Adam and Beaverly leave together to pursue brighter lights.  On the brink of “losing it” and feeling sorry for herself, Annie gets a call from Pacific Studios.  She’s offered a job as a screen writer, and three days later she finds herself starting over - in Hollywood!  Shortly after arriving, Annie meets the exceptionally critical gossip columnists and film critic, Fiona Farris.  Annie is befriended by Fiona and her circle of friends, who call themselves the “Ambassador’s Club.”   But all is not well, one night Fiona is found murdered in the Hollywood Canteen.  In a town where everyone has secrets, someone has made sure Fiona would never write again.  When it becomes evident that the police are not going to investigate Fiona’s death, Annie turns amateur sleuth.  But has she now put a target on her back?

Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen is a quick paced murder mystery.  Set in 1940’s Hollywood, a golden era for big movie studios and gossip columnists who could make or break careers.   Read it for a nostalgic trip back to a time of big bands and GI blues, for its colorful characters, witty banter, scandalous love affairs or just for the murder mayhem.

My thanks to @The_SarahJames, @Bookmarked and @NetGalley for the gift of this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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