Murder at the Academy Awards by Joan Rivers and Jerrilyn Farmer is the first book in the new “A Red Carpet” murder mystery series.  Publisher: Pocket, February 2009

As the Queen of the Red Carpet, Joan Rivers has been eyewitness to Hollywood’s most heinous crimes (okay, so they’re fashionrelated). And in this über-stylish mystery, she enlists her no-holdsbarred, slightly blonder literary counterpart, Maxine Taylor, to solve a crime of a different sort. When a gorgeous young actress dies on the Red Carpet, some in Tinseltown call it bad publicity. Max calls it murder.

The Academy Awards®. It’s Hollywood’s biggest night, and there’s no star better equipped than the tart-tongued Max Taylor to hold court on the glamorous Red Carpet. Sharing the dish with her daughter, Drew, the calls-it-as-she-sees-it entertainer has parlayed this star-studded annual gig into television’s most-watched pre-show event. And tonight, Max has landed a real coup — an exclusive interview with Halsey Hamilton, a fabulous, young, paparazzi-trailed Oscar nominee. But not even Max, who’s seen her share of celebrity train wrecks, is prepared for an incoherent Halsey, straight out of rehab, to stumble up to the mic, slur a few cryptic words, and drop dead at the hem of Max’s stunning Michael Kors gown.

To Hollywood, the starlet’s demise was tragic but inevitable. To Max, it looks more like a perfectly calculated crime. After all, she alone heard Halsey’s final whisper — a clue that leads Max to the pricey rehab clinic Wonders. With a weakness for nothing more disturbing than artificial sweeteners, Max nonetheless goes undercover and embarks on a twelve-step investigation into murder. Once inside the luxury clinic, Max’s list of suspicious players expands faster than the Jolie-Pitt family: Burke Norris, a professional cad and Drew’s ex-fiancé; Halsey’s father, who is still making money off his dead daughter’s fame; Halsey’s jealous younger sister; and Rojo Bernstein, a tattooed karate hipster who knew the troubled fallen star much better than anyone suspected.

Now it’s left to Max to unravel the sordid motives and find Halsey’s killer while upstaging an over-the-top Hollywood memorial service and funeral where the ill-fated actress was buried in, of all things, a tacky designer knockoff! And you thought the Oscars were all swag bags and Jimmy Choos? Hah! Honey, it’s murder.In Murder at the Academy Awards®, Joan Rivers delivers a very smart, bracingly funny, and pitch-perfect reflection of a Hollywood only she would dare to reveal — all seen through the eyes of an indomitable, high-end amateur sleuth who isn’t asking “Who are you wearing?” but rather “Whodunit?”

Max Taylor and her daughter Drew are the hosts for the Red Carpet Pre-show event before the Oscars are presented.  Near the end of their show, Max is on the verge of getting an exclusive interview with a young starlet who is recovering from a recent stint at a rehab facility.  When the young starlet shows up in only her lingerie, she is intoxicated and after a few words with Max, collapses and later is pronounced dead.  Max is the only person to hear her last words and unfortunately the words implicate Drew’s ex-fiancé.  Drew implores Max to solve the murder saying that Drew is innocent, so Max goes undercover at the rehab facility to ferret out the clues.  It was a cute murder mystery.  [3.5 stars – liked it]

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