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by Michelle Berry

High-pulp authors from Raymond Chandler to Robert Ferrigno to the newest sensation, Bruce Wagner, have taken the beautiful horror of Los Angeles – its sheen, its viciousness, its generations of celebrity skin – and from it derived memorable pop fiction. It takes nerve to try to join that clique of writers on the sunny side of noir, but Blur is risky business from the get-go; it invites comparison to a long line of Sunset Boulevard standards.

Berry’s entry starts in classic L.A. story fashion: with a little person with big dreams. Bruce Dermott – 42 years old, ex-wife and kids, broke, haunted by suspicions that he may be nothing but a cheap-car-driving sad sack – is a once-idealistic journalist now churning out hype for an entertainment weekly. On a visit to an office supply store, Dermott stumbles across what looks like a very big scoop: he spots the legendary long-lost actress Emma Fine.

The reclusive megastar lost everything a decade earlier when her lover’s body was discovered in her swimming pool; soon afterwards, claiming amnesia, Fine disappeared from sight. As Blur’s storyline intermittently flashes back to the crime, Dermott’s fascination with the case leads him to a woman who looks uncannily like Emma Fine, and to various hustlers, cops, and housekeepers. It also leads him to his estranged wife and son.

Berry’s style is to die for – it’s cool and confident, with a kind of wary watchfulness that echoes her protagonist’s personality. Like others in the genre, Blur is less a mystery story than a snapshot of the way la-la life is lived. Still, plot counts, and any plot that depends on dead ringers and/or surgical doppelgangers is ultimately straight out of a dire cable movie. These implausibilities only force Berry into more defensive plot contrivances. Blur looks shiny but has a hollow core, which is just what they say about Los Angeles.


Reviewer: Adair Brouwer

Publisher: Random House Canada


Price: $32.95

Page Count: 284 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-679-31141-6

Released: Mar.

Issue Date: 2002-3

Categories: Fiction: Novels