Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong time and place influence characters and story
Cons: I don’t know any cons
The Bottom Line:
Offers more intrigue, danger
For this fun duo
Who is Dangerous to Know in 1938 Hollywood?
Earlier this year, I made the charming acquaintance of Lillian Frost and Edith Head while I watched them solve their first mystery. I didn’t waste any time picking up Dangerous to Know, their second adventure, and I might have liked it even more.
If you aren’t an aficionado of old Hollywood, Edith Head was a costume designer during the golden age of movies. (Don’t worry, I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of her either.) Lillian Frost is the completely fictional young woman who came to Hollywood because she won a screen test and stayed. No, she isn’t an actress and doesn’t even want to be an actress. As a result of the first book, she’s found a wonderful position as the social secretary for millionaire Addison Rice, a man who gives some pretty creative parties.
This book takes place in December of 1938. A couple of months before, Lillian and Addison had been in New York, and they had attended a dinner party that was going downhill before a maid accuses one of the guests, Albert Chaperau, of smuggling. As this book opens, the FBI’s investigation of the charges has led to the doors of Paramount, where Edith is now the head of the costume department. Edith wants every last detail from Lillian in hopes of helping the studio and some of their famous stars as the FBI keeps circling.
Meanwhile, Edith has another favor to ask of her friend. She wants Lillian to ask around about Jens Lahse, a pianist who is friends with actress and singer Marlene Dietrich. Jens has fled from Austria ahead of the German takeover of his country. No one has seen him in a week, and Dietrich is concerned. Lillian readily agrees, but just as her investigation appears to have reached a dead end, she makes a shocking discovery. Just what has happened?
This book spends little time rehashing how Lillian and Edith met or their unlikely friendship. If you want the full story, you’ll have to read the first book in the series. However, nothing here spoils the first book if you decide to jump in here.
With the dueling plots, there is plenty to keep you engaged as you read. The book spends some time setting up the new characters and their relationships with each other, but once that foundation is laid, things really take off. I figured out the solution only paragraphs before Lillian did, although even then, there was quite a bit I had missed.
The book mixes real and fictional characters in a completely organic way. Again, since I don’t know old Hollywood well, I suspect I missed quite a few of the cameos, although the extensive notes at the end of the book helped fill in the gaps. But whether I recognized a name on the page or not, I felt like all of them came to perfect life.
And I really am impressed just how much real history was worked into this story. The notes at the end help flesh out what is true, what is fiction, and what is inspired by truth. Couple that with writing that evokes 1938 and the world as it was during that time, and this is a trip back in time. While this book may not be focused on Christmas, it does play into a sub-plot and come up regularly, which I also enjoyed.
In addition to the real-life actors and actresses who appear, there is also plenty of talk about films. I am finding myself intrigued by many of them. I need more movies to watch about as much as I need more books to read, but I am definitely interested in watching more old movies after reading this book.
I’m so glad I have discovered this wonderful historical mystery series. Dangerous to Know will please the many fans of the first in the series. And if you haven’t taken this trip back in time to meet this wonderful duo, I highly suggest you do so today.