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Pretty as a Picture

In Elizabeth Little's hugely entertaining Pretty as a Picture, film editor Marissa Dahl receives a job offer she can't refuse: work with acclaimed director Tony Rees on his latest movie. The caveats: she must get on a plane immediately, and she won't be told exactly where she's going or anything about the project--other than the story includes a dead girl--until she arrives. Marissa does know the project's previous editor was fired, but no reason is given.

The location turns out to be an island off the coast of Delaware, and Marissa is escorted to the set by the evasive Isaiah, whom she soon realizes is not just a driver but likely former military with lethal skills, e.g., a Navy SEAL. Why would someone like that be needed? The answer reveals itself when a dead body turns up, and the killer is someone on the island.

Like Dear Daughter, Little's well-received debut novel, Pretty as a Picture is propelled by a sharp, sardonic voice and an engaging protagonist. Marissa might lack social skills, but her internal monologue is spiced with snark. When she sees a vending machine that dispenses kale chips and organic cotton socks instead of the usual junk food, she bristles: "What a waste of perfectly good pocket change." Marissa's emotions play out in her brain as movie clips; "Huckleberry Fox, inconsolable, at Debra Winger's bedside" in Terms of Endearment represents sadness. The novel includes many film references to delight cinephiles, and the mystery will keep readers guessing, but the main attractions are Marissa and her vivid inner life. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd