The Song Is You

From its absolutely gorgeous, period-perfect cover to its evocative portrait of the 1940s Hollywood studio system in action, Megan Abbott’s new novel is a sensual feast. “Hop was rarely surprised these days,” Abbott says of Gil Hopkins, a once-promising journalist, now a studio flack who knows where all the bodies are buried because he buried most of them himself. Her other main player is a young starlet who really existed: Jean Spangler, a sexy-longlegs who disappeared one night and was never seen again. The papers called her “Daughter of Black Dahlia,” connecting Spangler to another notorious disappearance. Abbott makes this single mother of a five-year-old girl a deeply touching and fully understandable young woman: knowing the dangers of having little talent other than her looks but still thinking she can survive in a very twisted world. Hopkins has some damaging knowledge of his own about that world: he was probably responsible for bringing about Spangler’s fate. It’s only when a friend of Jean’s appears from the past does his own guilt begin to percolate, and when that girl also disappears he is forced into action almost against his will. A famed song-and-dance team who specialize in rough sex are among the culprits, as are Gil’s ex-wife and a blackmail ring that takes advantage of the creepy mileu to make their own failed Hollywood dreams come true.