Book Review: The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Murder Case buy George Baxt
And perhaps the most boring. Just look at the gap between this review and the last one. Gee whizz, it took me ages to read!
The Plot: Hollywood, 1953. Impresario Sol Hurok has brought the legendary Baronovitch ballet company to the United States and is planning to feature them along with everyone’s favorite dance team–Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers–on a groundbreaking television special. Since this story takes place during the height of the Cold War, everyone is considered a spy, the KGB and the CIA are constantly watching each other, and no one is to be trusted. At the gala honoring the stars of the ballet tv special, Ginger’s psychitrist, Igor Romanov, collapses dead from poison. Now everyone is suspect, from the ballet company to the doctor’s hired help and it’s up to Fred, Ginger, and detective Herb Villon to catch the killer.
Redeeming qualities of this book:
1) The end was actually quite good! The identity of the killer was a total surprise. George Baxt actually created a plot twist! Gooooood job!
2) It made a good flyswatter. You need one of those during these hot summer days.
However, as I said before, this book was so BORING. It took me ages to get through it! I think even Baxt was bored writing this one. I adore Fred and Ginger (who doesn’t?) but man, were they unlovable and very forgettable in this book. The characters were incredibly flat. Ginger was nothing but an annoying prick who complained about her age and the sweet, charming Fred was a dead beat. Honestly, he could’ve been a life-size cardboard cutout and I doubt anyone would’ve noticed the difference. On a side note, I’ve never understood the point of life-size cardboard cutouts. Who would actually spend hard-earned cash ON A HUNK OF CARDBOARD!?!? Maybe people who have cardboard for brains. Seriously, use that money to buy a book or a good classic film instead of spending it on a 2D, breakable replica of Justin Beaver or whatever the hell his name is or Harry Potter! But I digress.
Not only was the book boring, but it was CONFUSING. Now, I’m a very smart cat. I got photographic memory. I remember every face I see and every name I hear. But there were SO MANY RUSSIANS in this book with CONFUSING RUSSIAN NAMES that I mixed them all up! I forgot who was who, who did what, who I just read about…it was just terrible. They all have similar names, too, which made the problem even worse! There were at LEAST two characters named Mikhail, there was a Theodore and a Feodor, a Vanoff and a Romanov, and a Nikolai and Mordecai, amongst a ton of other Russians that I really can’t remember. There were a lot of moments in which I closed the book and stared into space, not knowing who the hell I just read about. I never thought that “too many Russians” can be a problem in a book, but I guess there’s a first time for everything. I also hated how all the Russians knew each other from before. Um, Russia is almost the size of my old fourth grade teacher’s butt, NOT the size of your backyard, George Baxt! How could they all be so chummy like that?
I also didn’t like the performance that Fred and Ginger were going to do with the ballet company. It was to be a ballet of the story of Rasputin. Yes. Rasputin, in ballet form. And Ginger and Fred, not being ballerinas, were going to tap dance. So you have ballet and tap dancing going on at the same time. You have Fred Astaire as Rasputin with a dirty fake beard pressed to his face. You have Ginger as the czarina, always clicking castanets together (??? THIS IS RUSSIA NOT SPAIN). And you have two different dances that tell a story in two different ways combined in one big tv special. That, my dears, is what I call a recipe for disaster. WHO TOLD BAXT THAT A RASPUTIN BALLET WITH TAP DANCING WAS A GOOD IDEA??? Where the fuck does he get these ideas from? And I hate how everyone in the book thinks it’s a brilliant idea too. Uh, if the real Fred Astaire was asked to perform in a Rasputin ballet, I think he would’ve relinquished his Hollywood life, run all the way to Timbuktu, and become one with the people there.
I also caught something quite interesting about this book. I’ve read the reviews on the back of the jacket about 38627864-34827 times, and I noticed that ONE OF THE REVIEWS WERE CHANGED. When reviewing The William Powell and Myrna Loy Murder Case, Booklist stated: “This is an utterly unbelievable but thoroughly entertaining romp through a Hollywood that never really existed, except perhaps in its own mind.” However, on the back of my book, the review was changed to: “This is an utterly believable but thoroughly entertaining romp through a Hollywood that never really existed, except perhaps in its own mind.” Now, really, the changed review doesn’t even make sense! “But” is used when you have two contradicting statements, but here the two statements agree with each other…talk about obvious. Never trust a book that needs to change its reviews to garner praise.
**An addition: Baxt dedicated this book to Carole Lombard. Now why would he do that???