"The Next to Die," a new mystery set in Hollywood but written by transplanted East Coaster Richard Fliegel, is an engagingly quirky variation on a perhaps overfamiliar theme.
In this latest version of "Beverly Hills Cop," NYPD detective Shelly Lowenkopf is dispatched to Los Angeles as consultant on a troubled film production after becoming unwittingly involved in the death of a youth back East. But, like so many others of his fictional and film predecessors, Lowenkopf can't seem to stay out of trouble, quickly nosing out foul play on and off the set of a sort that ultimately leads back to his New York investigations.
In the process, he engages in the customary sexual adventures with a director's assistant and an actress, steps on the wrong people's toes, gets set up by his new intimates and, without going into the specifics, is ultimately vindicated.
Fliegel has a nice light touch, but, ultimately, Lowenkopf is a little too self-loving to command much affection from the reader. And in this post-"Miami Vice" era in which the real-life fiction of such writers as Elmore Leonard and Charles Willeford are pushing back the envelope of genre fiction, Fliegel's fish-out-of-water story is too mechanically plotted to become very gripping.