John Ray Horn knows all about loss--and regret. He was once Sierra Lane, hero to countless youngsters in a series of cheap westerns. Now, after a spell in prison, he lives on the margins of 1940s Los Angeles. Blacklisted by the studios, he makes ends meet by collecting debts for his old Indian co-star, Joseph Mad Crow.
One rain-soaked LA evening, a chance encounter brings Horn into contact with an old flame. Rose Galen played the female lead in his second movie. Young, beautiful, supremely talented, she had a shining quality to her. Now Rose is a shattered creature, drink-sodden and heavy with sadness. Something happened to her years ago, before Horn first knew her, something so terrible that it would eventually leave her broken. Hoping to uncover her long-held secret, Horn goes to visit Rose at her shabby rooming house. He discovers her strangled body. Aware of a debt to her that he never fully acknowledged, he sets out with the aid of Mad Crow to find her killer.
His search takes him back into the Hollywood of the 1920s, to the Jazz Age, the era of the silent film, and a wild party attended by both movie celebrities and racketeers. On that night, a terrible act left a young woman dead and several people guarding a secret that would only begin to unravel after Rose Galen took her last tortured breath.
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