Hallie Ephron is an author who plays by her own rules. She doesn’t produce a new novel every year, she doesn’t write a series, and she creates works in both the fiction and non-fiction realms. The end result is that while she doesn’t have the same long list of credits as some of her contemporaries, every book on her list of accomplishments is exceptional. With Night Night, Sleep Tight, Hallie Ephron has written what could be her most personal novel yet and readers are going to cherish it.
In an opening scenario that plays out like an alternate version of the beginning of Sunset Boulevard, Hallie immediately transports readers to the Hollywood of yesteryear. When Deirdre Unger returns to Beverly Hills to help her father prep the family house for re-sale, she finds him floating dead in the swimming pool. Unsure if this tragedy was an accident or something more sinister, Deirdre descends into a spiral of secrets, gossip, innuendo, and scandal.
Maintaining her mission to clean out the house, Deirdre discovers an unproduced script her father had hidden away. The manuscript is written in a confessional style and documents Arthur Unger’s years in Hollywood. This peek behind the scenes only serves to cause more questions for Deirdre. Things become more complicated when Deirdre’s childhood friend, Joelen Nichol shows up on her doorstep. Years previous, Joelen and Deirdre were present at a party that ended in another death. Could Arthur Unger’s death all these years later be tied to this previous crime? (Note: Readers interesting in more details of this earlier party can find them in Hallie Ephron’s short story, Photoplay.)
From the opening pages of the novel, it is clear that Hallie Ephron knows this world of the Hollywood elite intimately. Everything she writes feels authentic to the period (the 1980’s and earlier) and it is impossible not to be swept away by the narrative. Hallie Ephron strikes the perfect tone of nostalgia without straying into the territory of hyperbole or grandiosity. Part satire, part realistic glimpse, the novel will capture reader’s imagination – especially those prone to celebrity gossip and rumormongering.
As are all Hallie Ephron’s novels, Night Night, Sleep Tight is tightly-written and features a clearly defined structure. With the time shifts alone, the book could easily have become muddled and confusing, but Ephron breezes through these potential problems with ease. A book like this should feel like a guilty pleasure and that is exactly what readers will discover. Night Night Sleep Tight provides an entrée into a world most of us will never get to see and the result is not just a compelling suspense novel, but also a precious gift – like the string of pearls which adorn the cover.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel