box office poison: review, giveaway & blog tour

Monday, August 12, 2013 |
Today’s review is part of the blog tour for Phillipa Bornikova’s new book, Box Office Poison.  It’s an urban fantasy/law procedural/mystery with Hollywood flair and a clever (or lucky?) heroine.  It was released by Tor (Macmillan) on August 6, 2013.

One of my roommates is currently obsessed with the show Suits.  As a result, I have recently watched an episode (or two!) featuring ruthless lawyers, unbelievable shenanigans, and really, really well-dressed members of the firm and their clients.  It may have been this peek into the Hollywood version of law that prompted me to pick up Phillipa Bornikova’s Box Office Poison, a fantasy that feels very real, and features not only werewolves, vampires and elves (Álfar), but also a resourceful and indomitable human lawyer, Linnet Ellery.

box office poison by phillipa bornikova book cover
What happens when exquisitely beautiful elves start getting all the roles in Hollywood? Human actors sue, that’s what. In a desperate attempt to keep the squabbling inside the Screen Actors Guild from going public, the president of SAG forces the two sides into arbitration. 

Enter Linnet Ellery, a human lawyer working for a vampire law firm, to serve as arbitrator. Linnet discovers that there are sinister forces at work in Tinsel Town determined to shatter the fragile peace between elves, vampires, werewolves, and humans. Someone has been coercing famous elven actors into committing sudden and terrible acts of violence against humans in a series of tragedies that could turn the tide of public opinion against all the supernatural Powers. 

During the course of her investigations Linnet realizes that a puzzling secret surrounds her, and that a strange power has been affecting the very course of her life…

In this second installment in Linnet’s adventures in law as a human dealing with Powers, Linnet has traded snowy New York for sunny L.A.  She’s being called upon to serve as one of the arbitrators between human actors and their Álfar counterparts after a suspiciously high number of roles go to elves over humans.  The already-tense situation is complicated by the fact that elven actors are committing horrible crimes against their human counterparts.  Linnet, acting as one-part impartial observer and one-part private investigator, is about to find out just how hot (in a dangerous sort of way) California can get.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll say that I didn’t read the first in this series, This Case Is Gonna Kill Me.  Obviously I would have had a much better understanding of the circles of power and Linnet’s back story if I had picked up the previous entry.  That said, the writing is straight-forward even as the mystery sets characters from with varying motivations and different backgrounds into play.  Linnet herself is a reliable narrator with a sort of blunt charm and a side helping of sass.  She’s also dealing with a world that is inherently unfair to women and downright dangerous for humans, so her self-possession is admirable.

Plot-wise, Box Office Poison is at times legalese-heavy, and that’s not something I’m in the habit of reading.  Action scenes break up some of the slow-moving political wrangling, as does Linnet’s interest in horses.  Still, the pacing is a bit uneven, although there are moments of humor (some prompted by awkward interactions) between Linnet and her immediate superior, David (a vampire), and the Hollywood-style banter kept the book from tedium.  Linnet’s talent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and escaping with her life, are sure to be the subject of ongoing interest in future books.

In all, Box Office Poison was a mixed bag for me – it had some fun/funny moments and featured a strong, lawyer-turned-PI heroine transplanted into a sunny new environment, but the pacing suffered a bit from an excess of procedure, and in the end the reader is left with more questions than answers (although that could have been my own fault for not reading book one first!).

Recommended for: those who enjoy law, mystery and urban fantasy, fans of Wen Spencer’s Tinker and Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assasin series, and readers who fancy a smart, unflappable heroine who has the wits to survive a complex, supernatural situation.

If the book sounds intriguing to you, enter the giveaway!  Two entrants will each receive a finished copy of Box Office Poison.  To enter, simply fill out the FORM.  Giveaway open to US/Canadian addresses, will end August 25th at 11:59pm EST.  Winner will be selected randomly and notified via email.  Giveaway prize provided/mailed by the publisher.  Good luck!

Fine print: I received a finished copy of Box Office Poison for review from Tor (Macmillan).  Giveaway prize will be provided by the publisher.  I did not receive any compensation for this blog tour post.

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