Ray Bradbury, author of more than three dozen books, has written but two mystery novels— Death is a Lonely Business and A Graveyard for Lunatics. Those books, set in Venice, California of the 1950s, were narrated by a struggling young screenwriter (who bears a strong resemblence to the author in his youth). Fast forward a few years, and the screenwriter isn’t so green anymore, but mystery and murder still abound in this, the third of Bradbury’s noir tales. It was a dark and stormy night (no kidding — that’s the book’s opening line), and the unnamed narrator hears a frantic knocking on his beach bungalow door. There stands Constance Rattigan, a once-beautiful screen actress of yesteryear, clutching two tattered phone books filled with names of long-dead Hollywood personalities— friends or intimates all of the once-great Constance. A few of those listed are still alive—but each one of those entries has a red cross marked next to it. Who, Constance asks, could have sent these “Books of the Dead” to her — and why? Enlisting the aid of his trusty sidekick, detective Elmo Crumley, our hero sets out to unravel the mystery of who is trying to terrify Constance — and, more importantly, why. With directories in-hand, the two men set out to find — and warn—the owners of the “marked” names. As they tool around Los Angeles in Crumley’s ancient jalopy — from the cavernous dressing rooms beneath Grauman’s Chinese Theatre to a long-abandoned projectionist’s booth, from St. Vibiana’s church to an old cabin high in the Hollywood Hills— Bradbury takes us on a tour of the waning days of Hollywood glamour, and limns the heartbreak and isolation of an actress who was, once, too many years ago, the toast of Tinseltown. For it is not who Constance is running from, but what — a past she’d rather forget, but can’t escape.