The Vine That Ate The Starlet

The Vine That Ate The Starlet by Madeleine Swann

In New York, 1923, Dolly is a gossip columnist in a world overrun by man-eating plants.

She lives a life of glitz, glamor, and blackmail. That is until she finds a guest at a party dead – half-eaten by the deadly Vines. The girl’s death leads her into a conspiracy of doomed starlets, shady PR Agencies, and an overzealous Immigration Bureau.

The IndieMuse Review

Madeleine Swann’s horror-tinged period noir, The Vine That Ate The Starlet is a fun, likeable romp through a fictional 1920s New York, where the good times and social lives of the population of plucky reporters, wannabe movie stars and shady businessmen are hampered by a plague of murderous plants that cover the city, feeding on those who get too close.

Dolly Preston is a well-known gossip columnist for a prestigious newspaper, who lives a glamourous lifestyle of glitzy parties and glamourous gatherings. At one such party, Dolly finds a young woman, half-eaten by the bloodthirsty vines that pervade her city. While this is becoming a tragically common occurrence in New York, something about this girl prompts Dolly to investigate further, as she suspects foul play rather than bad luck may be the cause of this latest death.

As Dolly digs deeper into the city’s seedier underbelly, she begins to uncover a shocking secret about the vines and a conspiracy regarding a group of hopeful actresses who have mysteriously disappeared. Will Dolly be able to uncover the clandestine group before they put a stop to her investigation, permanently.

The Vine That Ate The Starlet is an incredibly fun, light read that really invokes a 1920s aesthetic. I may not know my gumshoes from my glad-rags or my juice-joint from my jalopy, but even I got big Gatsby vibes from this nifty novella. Swann clearly has a great passion for the era and it shines through in her writing. As Dolly’s search takes her to speakeasies, gin-joints, movie studios and luxurious apartments, the vibe of each place is described in such gleeful detail that it creates an incredibly vivid picture of the alternate universe New York and it is easy to get lost in that world.

Dolly was a fantastic protagonist to take us through this bizarro tale of killer vines and movie stars. She is effortlessly cool, resourceful and confident with little time for nonsense but always finds a moment to spare for a quick gin with friends. It was refreshing to be guided through a story by a lead with such a fun and positive outlook, even in the face of ever-present danger.

Where I struggled with the book somewhat was in the sheer volume of stuff that Swann tries to fit into a slim 82-page story. Dolly is absolutely tireless, shifting from location to location, speaking to a seemingly endless line of people, and it all becomes a little confusing at points, and more than a little difficult to follow. The pacing is absolutely blistering and while it works to the story’s advantage in terms of keeping the reader engaged, it is at the expense of maintaining an easy coherence when the story picks up midway through.

A swell tale of a swanky sleuth, The Vine That Ate The Starlet is the bee’s knees. Fast-paced and fun, you’ll practically be able to smell the gin rickeys and cigarette smoke wafting from its pages.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

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