Friday, April 26, 2019

Review of Design for Dying by Renee Patrick (2016, Forge)

1937, Los Angeles. Lillian Frost has given up on becoming a Hollywood star and is working in a department store. Her former room-mate, Ruby, never gave up on the dream. When Ruby is found shot dead in alley wearing clothes stolen from Paramount Pictures, Lillian is questioned by the police. In Ruby’s possession is a brooch gifted to Lillian by her late mother which had disappeared months earlier. Determined not to lose the brooch again Lillian insists on visiting Paramount with the cops hoping their Wardrobe Department will back up her claim. At the studio she meets Edith Head, a designer of clothes for the stars. The two women quickly form a bond and are soon following their own leads, passing them on to the police at their discretion. Their dabbling soon reveals that Ruby had been tangling with a dodgy nightclub owner, a Hungarian princess, an Argentinian playboy, a crooked private investigator, a lecherous director, and an organizer of Hollywood parties, and had plenty of secrets. It also places them in danger as the foci of their attention act to protect their interests. Lillian and Edith though are well able to keep their cool, while always managing to look fabulous.

Design for Dying is the first book in the Lillian Frost and Edith Head series set in and around Hollywood and featuring a slew of film stars, directors, and others associated with the movie business. Edith Head was a famous real-life costume designer who was nominated for 35 Oscars, winning 8. Renee Patrick has her also turning her hand to solving mysteries, in this outing the death of a budding actress determined to make it big in Hollywood, her dream ending with a bullet in an alley. Lillian Frost was Ruby’s former room-mate who joins forces with Edith to conduct their own investigation, while also helping the police. Lillian does most of the legwork, tracking down clues via her shared friends with Ruby while trying to hold down her department store job. The story has the feel of a Hollywood movie itself, with a rum cast of interesting characters, plenty of action and intrigue, a couple of nourish touches offset by a touch of frothiness, a zing of humour, and some cameos from well-known stars such as Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck. And if you're into fashion, then the book is full of 1930s style tips. The story is engaging and entertaining, and several suspects are kept in the frame right to the denouement. I’m looking forward to reading the second in the series.

1 comment:

J F Norris said...

This is a great book. At a mystery convention two years ago I met the husband/wife duo who write these books and they both admitted that they modeled Lillian and Edith after Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe. I'm eager to read the other two that they've written. The movie studio background is spot on and all the vintage movie references are a real draw for a cinephile like me.