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Box Office Poison (Linnet Ellery) by Phillipa Bornikova
Cover Artist: Veer
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765326836
Date: 06 August 2013 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Facebook / Show Official Info /

Lawyer Linnet Ellery has made a place for herself at a New York 'white fang' law firm that mostly serves the supernatural community. But now she's off to LA to help resolve a labor dispute between human actors and the elves who are taking more and more feature roles. When a prominent elf actor goes on a killing spree, though, Linnet's job gets a lot more complicated...

In Box Office Poison, Phillipa Bournikova's heroine Linnet and Linnet's vampire boss, David, are put through their paces. Their firm has been retained to arbitrate a settlement between the Screen Actors Guild (represented by action film star/super-hunk Jeff Montolbano), a contingent of human actors and the elves (who are counseled by Qwendar, a former member of their council). It's a complex negotiation with several agendas at play, including the use of fae magic--is that an unfair advantage or just the same as being handsome?

Just as Linnet and David are digging into the dispute, a famous elf actor goes berserk, killing a number of actors on a movie set. What made this superstar lash out violently? Was it madness or something else?

Linnet soon finds herself in over her head, as the different factions battle it out in and out of the arbitration. She's menaced by supernatural forces on the one hand and by a human-first group of haters on the other. Her only source of comfort is Vento, a horse sent to her by a friend back in New York.

As affairs heat up, Linnet finds reasons to doubt even her closest allies. Is Jeff as aboveboard as he seems, given that a lot of his own money is riding on a movie he's producing? What sort of help can Qwendar really offer, if elves are going crazy and killing randomly?

The truth is twisted and only a sharp, lucky gal like Linnet stands a chance of unraveling it. If she survives long enough, that is.

Phillipa Bournikova has delivered a strong follow-up to her previous This Case Is Gonna Kill Me, putting Linnet in a whole new world of trouble. Luckily, this is one world the author knows well, in her alter ego as novelist/screenwriter Melinda Snodgrass. Describing the inner workings of Hollywood (albeit with vampires and elves added in) is something that takes a true veteran of showbiz to do right, and she comes through like gangbusters.

Linnet's professional world is growing more settled, although her relationship with David seems to be more complicated--are they boss and employee or is there something more?--but putting her into the cutthroat world of movies keeps things nicely shaken up. She can't rely on what she already knows, and her entry into this mysterious place takes the reader along quite nicely. For one thing, some actors are exactly as shallow and superficial as they might seem...but others are not; they're just people trying to do a job the best they can. The author does a wonderful job of making each character fully realized, with motives and goals that go beyond one arbitration--or one killing spree.

The elves are kept nicely mysterious as well. Although humans have adopted a bastardized version of the elven religion (which causes them some discomfort), we are told very little about them--and thus a reader cannot easily guess an agenda. It serves the goals of further building out the story's world and also giving readers something more to consider.

The resolution to the arbitration follows the discovery of the true villains and their ultimate aim, wrapping up both storylines neatly. Linnet, however, is left with a bit of a mystery concerning...herself. Which will lead smoothly into the next book, to be sure.

Readers are sure to enjoy Linnet's ongoing adventures, tidily meshing legal drama and urban fantasy in a powerhouse combination.


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