In the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of murder mystery movies, from Agatha Christie adaptations like Death on the Nile; Agatha Christie adjacent films like See How They Run, and original works like the Knives Out franchise.
But movies too can be murderous affairs themselves, whether it’s during the filming of a movie, inside the home of a director, on a street in Hollywood, or within the darkness of a movie theater.
Here is a list of six murder mysteries immersed in movie magic—and murder!
Final Cut (A Hollywood Mystery)
Released in June 2023, Joey Jessop is thrilled to be working on a giant blockbuster movie, which may catapult her career as a costumer into the heavens. It’s a dream come true. So much so that she’ll put up having to work with her ex and his ex’s new girlfriend, Courtney. But she hadn’t anticipated that someone would kill Courtney on set and try to pin it on Joey.
The police find texts from Jessop asking Courtney to meet her. Then the media finds out about this supposed love triangle so Jessop now has her reputation on the line. Now to save her name and freedom, Jessop has to dive into the dark underbelly of filmmaking and Hollywood to find out why someone wanted to turn the camera off Courtney Lisle.
The first in the three-novel Detective by Day series, Dayna Anderson had some success as a Black actress in Hollywood filming a commercial. She wanted to do more serious work but learned that the jobs have dried up. She’s desperate to find a job but things go from dire to disaster when she learns that her parents’ home is on the verge of foreclosure. Trying to get her mind off her near-empty bank account, Anderson goes out with friends for a birthday party but when she sees a hit-and-run and discovers that there is a reward for information about the accident, Anderson decides that she’s going to try something besides acting to fill her coffers.
But it turns out that winning that reward money will involve a lot more work and danger than Anderson anticipated. This is a great series for folks who are fans of Janet Evanovich.
The Last Guest
Sometimes you have to go to parties you don’t want to. That’s Elspeth Bell’s feeling towards her ex-husband’s 50th birthday, famous Hollywood director, Richard Bryant. Not only that, he was the one who basically made her a star. She figures that there will be lots of people and she can be seen and leave. Turns out that Bryant only invited eight total people, Bell included; nine if you could his pet octopus Persephone.
But soon the numbers dwindle when Bryant is found having overdosed—and suspicion falls on every guest for causing Bryant’s death. Every one of them had a motive to strike Bryant off the proverbial set. Bell decides to investigate, even if it brings up some bad memories of their marriage. It’s a very twisty locked room mystery that deals with power and abuse.
Design for Dying
The first in the Lillian Frost and Edith Head Mystery series goes back to the wonderful Golden Age of Hollywood. Lillian Frost went to Hollywood to become a star but instead works at a department store. Not ideal but a job’s a job. But when Frost’s former roommate is found dead in a stellar gown, the police point their fingers at Frost, thinking she stole the gown from her place of business. But Frost knows that the dress is familiar and realizes that she had seen it on the silver screen.
She meets Edith Head, the costume designer, whose career is stumbling and the association with this crime might be enough to kill it. Frost and Head team up to save their hides and careers. There are five books so far in this cozy series.
The Talking Pictures Murder Case
The fourth in Baxt’s Jacob Fisher series, this book focuses on that transition from silent films to “talkies.” Told through dialogue (appropriate for the topic), talkies might be taking out lots of people’s jobs but someone has decided to take a stab at offing people as well in Hollywood. Who is behind the killings and why?
Herbert Villon, a police detective, works to try to find the killer while the industry tries to keep the cameras rolling. There are thirteen books in this series, each one focusing on a luminary from the 1930s-1950s including Alfred Hitchcock to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Murder at the Palace
In the first book of the A Movie Palace Mystery series, Nora Paige tries to find solace as the manager of a historic movie theater, the Palace, in San Francisco. Not only does she find kindred spirits who love classic movies as much as she does, she finds a literal spirit, Trixie, a 1930s movie usher. But it’s better than sitting at home in Hollywood with a broken heart.
Unfortunately, her first day gets a poor opening when she finds a dead body in an ice maker in the basement. No one knows who this person is. Can Paige and her ghostly pal Trixie figure out who the dead person is and why they were killed?