Blackmailing a Star
While several more historical mystery series set in Hollywood and Los Angeles have crossed my radar, the only one I am reading is still the Lillian Frost and Edith Head mysteries. (I want to fix that, but so many books, so little time is real.) If you have an interest in old Hollywood, these are definitely for you. The Sharpest Needle is the duo’s fourth case, and it’s another winner.
If you are new to the series, Edith Head is a real person, the famed costume designer who worked on tons of pictures and dressed many famous movie stars over a decades long career in the movies. Lillian Frost, however, is a completely fictional character. She moved from New York to Los Angeles and built an unlikely friendship with Edith while working as the social secretary to millionaire inventor Addison Rice.
This book opens in the second half of August 1939. Silent film actress Marion Davies has been receiving poison pen letters from someone calling himself Argus. The letters threaten to reveal something from Marion’s past, something that could ruin her current relationship with William Randolph Hurst. When she turns to Lillian and Edith for help, Edith can’t help but think there is more to the situation than there first appears to be. Then a dead body turns up. Can Lillian and Edith figure out what is going on?
There really is so much to praise about this book.
Let’s start with the plot. It does get a tad overly complicated as we near the end of the book, but as the same time it is fascinating. Pay attention to what is going on, and you’ll follow it just fine. Even before we reach the end, there are plenty of twists, red herrings, complications, and surprises to keep us reading.
The book has real people and fictional characters rubbing elbows seamlessly. Every character comes to life as the story unfolds, and it is easy to lose track of who is real and who is fictional as you get caught up in the story. While I must admit I am not super familiar with the Hollywood of 1939, I still recognized plenty of the real people who wander through the story. That’s always fun, whether they appear for a cameo or play a part in the overall story.
We also really feel like we are in August of 1939, with the events of the day being talked about by the characters. With Hearst as a character, how can they not be? We also get discussions of movies of the day, which I enjoyed.
The Sharpest Needle really is more than a Hollywood mystery. It captures the time perfectly while giving us a page turning plot and real characters. If you haven’t met Edith and Lillian yet, fix that today.
Enjoy the rest of the Lillian Frost and Edith Head Mysteries.
Note: I received an ARC of this book.