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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Design for Dying (Lillian Frost & Edith Head Mystery, #1)

Design for Dying - Renee Patrick

Los Angeles, 1937. Lillian Frost has traded dreams of stardom for security as a department store salesgirl . . . until the murder of her former roommate, Ruby Carroll. Party girl Ruby died wearing a gown she stole from the wardrobe department at Paramount Pictures, domain of Edith Head.

Edith [is] barely hanging on to her job, and a scandal is the last thing she needs. To clear Lillian's name and save Edith's career, the two women join forces.

Unraveling the mystery pits them against a Hungarian princess on the lam, a hotshot director on the make, and a private investigator who's not on the level. All they have going for them are dogged determination, assists from the likes of Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck, and a killer sense of style. 

 

This was such a fantastic surprise; I was ordering some books for my mom from the Mysterious Bookshop and saw this mentioned in their newsletter and added it for myself on a whim.  When it arrived I started having buyers angst - I'd heard nothing about this book at all except the mention in the newsletter.  I needn't have worried; from the moment I started reading it, I loved it.

 

The POV is Lillian's and the dialogue is pure 30's Hollywood.  If flippant banter isn't your bag, this book isn't either.  It was sooo much fun finding out what Lillian would say next; she isn't disrespectful or sarcastic, but she doesn't hesitate to poke fun where there's fun to poke - mostly at herself.  I know absolutely nothing about Edith Head as a historical figure, but apparently a lot of research was done for this book to make her true-to-life.  I liked her; there's not much revealed but what we see is kind, smart and highly competent.

 

The mystery plot was excellent with an outstanding plot twist that blindsided me completely and totally changed things up.  Lots of liberties were taken with police procedure, but I found it easy to overlook because 1930's Hollywood left a lot of leeway for improvisation, so who knows?  If it was going to happen anywhere at anytime, it would be Hollywood in the 30's.  The ending was very Christie-esque with a good old fashioned denouement that revealed an unexpected murderer.

 

I was initially wary upon finding out the author is a pseudonym for a husband/wife writing team; my experiences thus far have been hit and miss with collaborations, but team Patrick writes a smooth, easy-reading story with a nice flow and consistent pacing.

 

I'm an instant fan with this first book and I'm eager to read what comes next.  Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a good mystery and loves this era; I don't think it will disappoint at all.