• The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures

By Edward Ball
(Doubleday, $30)

The plot points seem ripped from today’s headlines: money, murder, aspiration and redemption. Instead, author Edward Ball’s true tale shines light on the ambitions of the Gilded Age that forged the unlikely friendship between Eadweard Muybridge (the eccentric inventor of stop-motion photography) and Leland Stanford (a railroad tycoon). At times, Ball’s chronology and narrative careen around its far-flung locales at a dizzying pace equal to one of Stanford’s beloved racehorses. By the finish line, though, Ball has succeeded in capturing a portrait of these two men and how their quest to freeze action instead set in motion the media age in which we’re immersed today.