Book Review | “Design for Dying” (Book No.1 of the Lillian Frost & Edith Head novels) by Renee Patrick A wicked new Cosy Historical Mystery series set during Hollywood’s Golden Years!

Posted Wednesday, 19 April, 2017 by jorielov , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I received an enquiry from a publicist at Tor/Forge in regards to this lovely new Historical Mysteries series I had not had the pleasure of finding out about previously! I was quite excited about what the scope of the series might entertain as I have a fond appreciation for Old Hollywood and the treasure trove of movies one can experience through the channel Turner Classic Movies (or TCM for short). Being one of the lead characters was Edith Head (a woman of interest of my own from Hollywood’s past) it felt like a wicked good fit for me to accept this series for review. Especially as I love watching old films as a stepping stone towards ‘discovering’ new actors and actresses I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing before and in effect become my ‘new favourites’ even decades after their careers ended. There is a pulse inside those films and I love watching the fashions change as much as the settings and story-lines!

I received a complimentary copy of “Design for Dying” direct from the publisher Forge (an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I was keenly interested in this new Mystery series:

First of all, I have a deep appreciation for Old Hollywood and Classic Movies of yesteryear – I grew up with this passion for black and white movies – going back to a quintessential holiday favourite of mine: ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ followed by ‘White Christmas’. I grew up on James Stewart films especially, as he was such a wicked good actor who could move between family films, drama and suspense (ie. Hitchcock!). By the time I discovered TCM (Turner Classic Movies) in my late teens / early twenties, it was a bit of a foregone conclusion Classic Movies would become a fixture of my viewing pleasure; yet it wasn’t until my mid to late twenties and early thirties that I started to *devour!* the offerings of TCM!

I even stumbled across the collective works of Cari Beauchamp (a wicked sweet Hollywood biographer!) prior to being a book blogger whilst fully engaged in the context of her book: Adventures of a Hollywood Secretary: Her Private Letters from Inside the Studios of the 1920s. Ever since I came across her writings, I’ve longed to attend the TCM: Classic Film Festival and mingle with others who love Classic Hollywood! I still itch to read through her collective works and seek out other titles by writers who are encompassing the same zest of love for this wicked time in film history!

One of my pet projects prior to being a book blogger was compiling a list of titles about Old Hollywood – most of the books were hard to fetch via ILL (inter-library loan) due to the heaviness of their volumes, which is why my ILL List soon became a Wish List of Purchases! lol On that list are biographies about Edith Head, as I had come to find her styles being represented through the films I was watching on TCM. The beauty of TCM is being able to find #newtomeactors of a begone age where women had the luxury of having a healthy body image & a definitive style where the fashions of Hollywood not only pushed new boundaries of fabric & craft but gave an eloquence to film-making at the same time! I love drinking in the styles of the 1920s – 1940s especially as they are such a cardinal imprint of class, sophistication and individuality.

When the publicist at Tor/Forge reached out to me about the mysteries involving Edith Head, I didn’t even have to think hard about accepting them! I did request receiving ‘Design for Dying’ alongside ‘Dangerous to Know’ as I felt the best way to entreat into an established series is to read the very first entry, wherein I could get a solid footing for the background of the characters and feel the continuity between installments!

As I will be blogging my ruminations back to back – if you return on Friday, you’ll get a special delight in reading my conversation with the authors behind this delishly vintage series, too! I loved how I even have a small tidbit about the ‘length and scope of time’ we all have coming towards us as the series expands and continues to grow! I am ever so excited for these two showcases as one thing I love about Old Hollywood is how quirky and comedic the ‘back-stories’ can be surrounding what is readily known but also, how delightfully quirky their lives were because they were defining the rules as they lived! There wasn’t a structure to everything back then – you could carve out a life between the lines and craft together a living on sheer determined will, pure wit and the daring conviction to pull it all off! And, that is what I loved about this series – as it embodies the fierce grit of daring possibilities to carve out your own path and live it with confidence!

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Notation on Cover Art Design: For a girl who once considered studying Costume Design at Ole Miss, I must confess I love the whole vintage texture and vibe of this cover art! I even love how there is this allure of ‘who could that be entering through the theshold’ whilst focusing on the dress of the woman in front of the mirror! Part of my allure of following the legacy of Edith Head is my passion for vintage fashion and costume design. A bit of this was revealled recently on my review of ‘How to be a Hepburn in a Kardashian World’ – but more to the point, I love how the typography, the setting and the art direction of this cover pull you forward into a plausible entry point to re-trace the footsteps of Edith Head.

Book Review | “Design for Dying” (Book No.1 of the Lillian Frost & Edith Head novels) by Renee Patrick A wicked new Cosy Historical Mystery series set during Hollywood’s Golden Years!Design for Dying
Subtitle: A Lillian Frost and Edith Head Novel
by Renee Patrick
Source: Direct from Publisher

The salon and the case files are open...

Meet Lillian Frost. A transplanted New Yorker with a boundless love of the movies and a single lousy screen test to her credit.

Meet Edith Head. The costume designer who, over the course of a career spanning seven decades, would be nominated for more Academy Awards than any other woman. Who dressed the most glamorous stars in history. Who worked closely with directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder.

Meet the sleuthing duo about to become Hollywood’s greatest detectives.

Los Angeles, 1937. Lillian Frost has traded dreams of stardom for security as a department store salesgirl ... until she discovers she’s a suspect in 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 has yet to win the first of her eight Academy Awards; right now she’s 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. In show business, that just may be enough…

Genres: Amateur Detective, Cosy Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction, Fashion Industry, Film History | Classic Hollywood, Noir Crime Drama

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780765381859

Also by this author: Dangerous to Know

Also in this series: Dangerous to Know

Published by Forge

on 7th March, 2017

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 320

Published By: Forge (@torbooks) | Read their incredible BLOG

Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Hardcover + Ebook

About Renee Patrick

Married writing team of Rosemarie & Vince Keenan, known as Renee Patrick. Photo Credit: David Hiller, 2015

Renee Patrick is the pseudonym for married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

Photo Credit: David Hiller, 2015

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‘meeting’ Edith head & Lillian frost:

Lillian Frost is a hard-working sales girl trying to get a leg up in the department store by staying on the cusp of modern fashion and winning over her customers by putting on display the items they’d be most keen to purchase after returning from the cinema. Despite her young years, she has a fire in her belly to succeed and to learn the different facets of her field. Being shocked by the brutal death of her friend Ruby, she was jostled into realising the hard luck life had arrived at her doorstep. Her fears of what could befall either of them was now coming true – but even that realisation was a curiosity, how did her friend die and why?

Ms Frost had the benefit of an Uncle who worked in Pictures (in Set Design) giving her an early interest in the goings-on of behind-the-scenes work which allowed the actors to take their queues. Without a set, there is no stage and without the illusion of the realities being filmed, there was little chance an audience would believe the illusion. Although she had her moment to arrive in front of the camera, it was her passion to find a way to stay behind it; to work on dressing the set rather than acting through the lens. I have to admit, I agree with her; there is so much synergy in the toils of the crew, you would never want for boredom! Your life would be a revolving door of quickfire solutions and inventive innovative designs.

Edith Head was found on the Paramount lot, quite in her element but it’s how she was presented to the reader which befitted her personality best. It was how you could ‘see’ her through the authors’ descriptions that gave me the smile which never quite left me for the rest of the novel’s length. They truly knew how to evoke Ms Head out of the historical past; to bridge her image and legacy out of time itself and make her wholly alive once more. Here she was in charge of everyone around her and quite in charge of Morrow’s proposed conversation! What I found so touching though is how keen Ms Head was to identity what was percolating in Ms Frost’s mind before she could own her thoughts. Head was genuinely taken with Lillian; she liked her honesty but I think there was something else that sparked a new friendship between them, too. They were both fond of fashion, they spoke the same language in that regard but it was more about how their passion and their personalities were aligned better than Ruby and Lillian ever could have been.

my review of design for dying:

Don’t you just love when Cosy Historical Mysteries start off with a newspaper article greeting you on the very first page of their novels? I especially do! It grounds the story on the footprints of it’s era; of when newsprint (aside from the wire) was the quickest way to receive alarming news of crime, natural disaster, politics and world affairs. Even the manner in how journalists would compel their readers with the newsbits and feeds of the hour had it’s own signature style and tone. Such a charming way to start the series, as it’s a clever way to ‘announce’ the case files of the two sleuths we’re about to meet!

And, of course – who hasn’t dreamt of those salons of fashion where you get to sip a drink and observe the models presenting you with the fashions you wish to purchase? Where you don’t have to pull anything off a rack and disappear into a fitting room but rather have an ensemble custom fit to your measurements? I love the energy of these department stores, boutiques and fashion shows where you had to be wicked quick with a needle as you entertained your audiences! I smirked, I laughed and I nodded in realising how well these authors captured the ‘moment’ between model and designer; where the shoes squish your toes and the gowns are barely free of last minute alterations when they have to walk out and flirt the audience into being tempted to purchase what their seeing on display! Such folly and yet, ooh! Imagine the felicity of creating on demand and being able to charm customers with what they see – selling them the personality and the lifestyle all wrapped up in fabric and design!?

When the detectives arrive to interview Ms Frost, you have to give it to them for not pulling punches and getting straight to the point – of course, this affected their interview greatly as who would think news like that wouldn’t make a girl swoon? Lillian righted her mind back to solid ground by recollecting her friend’s sharp wit, bold reassurances and straight as punch advice on how to ‘get on’ with life whilst giving out needed information to the police. This was a nice juxtaposition about the girls; of how their personalities intermingled but also, how they each approached their lives from a different core of background.

As Lillian recollects how she first met Ruby at a screen test where their sisterhood friendship began that very first day of their chance meeting; you start to see what drew the girls together. Ruby was slightly seasoned by going on auditions and Lillian was not quite the starlet but she was slightly naive about how to proceed forward. Ruby had the heart to share her newfound knowledge of the studios whilst grounding Lillian in the reality of how not every ‘filmmaker’ was on the up and up. Theirs was a fast friendship tied together through mutual respect and interest. Ruby was street smart and had a spicy personality to match her wits whereas Lillian was the doll of innocence but with a fuller understanding of grunt work and paying ones dues in order to succeed. You gathered the sense Lillian appreciated Ruby’s spunk but perhaps, questioned if something might befall her friend in the end.

I love how the segue of reverie re-alights inside the interview with the detectives; it’s good continuity but also, it’s such a classic way of re-entering a previous scene! You truly felt for Lillian though in the end; of how friendships can sever after a loss of trust and how heart-wrecking it is to think someone you once cherished as a confidente could be so callus in their inability to respect your feelings.

Hansen and Morrow are the type of detectives you’d expect would gain the trust of Lillian whilst attempting to follow-up on a lead they had from Ruby’s own handwriting. They didn’t outright trick her but they did charm her by accepting her truths as she shared them. Where she fell into their well-timed trap is when she asked to see the dress Ruby had worn at time of death – reminded me of a trapper’s snare as she couldn’t two-step her way out of owning the events of what led her and Ruby to meet-up one last time. Their also well sketched into characters you’d believe would be the coppers you’d find on the homicide beat; they work off each other, cloyingly at times working the case as they gain the trust of their suspects.

Even I was excited for Lillian going onto the Paramount lot – she was in tow with Morrow on a quest to prove ownership of a broach but what was curiously lovely is if she hadn’t gone along with the detective she might not have had the pleasure of meeting Edith Head! You had to feel for Morrow a bit; he only agreed to this joined outing to Paramount to humour Lillian and to potentially prove her wrong. Finding a winning compliment from Ms Head to verify what Lillian had already shared with him and his partner must have rankled on some level. For me, it just made me smirk evermore. It was how Edith Head made a lasting impression on Lillian I loved most of all; it was the perfect seal on a beautiful new friendship.

As Lillian re-traced her past with Ruby by re-visiting their old boarding house you could gather the hardship it was on Lillian to admit how numbing it was to think of how fleeting Ruby’s life truly was in the end. Their old friends’ were still there, fully aware of the loss but also, in some ways, relieved. Some had already tired of Ruby’s boisterous nature of oversharing but for Lillian it was a somber reminder of how close she died from where she lived. As she re-entered this part of their lives, she also had to deal with the ache of her memories. Edith Head had been smart to tell her she was still grieving; it would take time to lay Ruby to rest and let go of everything that triggered a new memory to the surface of her heart.

I wasn’t half surprised Ruby was linked to the underworld by way of a shady character named Tommy Carpa; he might have been coined after a shark but to me he seemed more like a snake, slithering his way onto your path with a residue of ill-will left behind in his wake. He could get a plant to wither just by the sound of his voice as he threatened you not by an acid tongue but with the old fashioned method of intimation of what ‘could happen’ if you crossed him. He was definitely the poster boy for his kind but what left you curious is why he’s so bent on making sure Lillian doesn’t share more than what she already had with the detectives. After all, what would it be to him? And why would it matter so much?

The real fun picked up a bit of steam when Edith went up against Morrow; she was a natural sleuth in how she could convey insinuating obstruction without failing to turn a detective white from the realisation she was right about blundering an interrogation of a potential informant. Pity the fool who went against her and felt she was less than the woman she had been. Lillian and Edith worked well together; they each played to each others’ strengths whilst they gave the detectives something to chew on they weren’t expecting from female intuitives who could solve crime so organically they would have to wait for the police to catch-up to their leads.

There isn’t one false move in this mystery – don’t misunderstand me – as the pacing is wickedly spaced to match wits with all the characters involved in each scene. It’s just simply, when Edith is present there is something quite wonderfully electric about those scenes; again, it is an enlightening tome of insight into Edith from authors who have brought her back to life in a role I think she’d delight in playing. I also happen to like cheeky turns of dialogue and Edith’s cues are quite smashing for how she says so much without saying too much at all. She has a coy manner about her, where she likes to only share a portion of the cards she’s holding. Lillian should take a feather out of her cap in that regard. Edith might not have been the one in charge of Wardrobe at the studio but she was well on her way; she commanded her position even if her power was not yet enlisted.

I liked the plucky move on Lillian’s part to entice her friend Kay to help her get background information on colleagues of Ruby. Kay was a budding journalist but you could tell she liked helping out an old friend; her baking skills are quite wicked, too. I could relate to her joy of baking but also, how she liked to dig into research – she was unearthing pertinent information but it was how Lillian and Edith used that information to piece together missing bits of Ruby’s life that mattered most. Also, I liked how Edith pushed Lillian a bit to step outside her ordinary life to be a bit more daring but to be daring with a purpose rather than being adrift without an oar like Ruby.

Within the last quarter of the story, Edith Head reveals something I wonder if were actual truth of how colours can be previewed ahead of bring cast against black and white film? This is something I’ve been toying with understanding for a long time – how did the palette of colours in fashion and hair styles match well against the absence of technocolour? How did the designers know which colours would reflect smartly on camera? If it was a trick of glass and tint, that might be one of the cleverest ways of ‘seeing’ something ahead of it’s print run! I had a feeling there was something obvious I was missing – but it was one of those things that becomes a fleeting fancy and then, you dig inside a novel and find the answer to what idled your mind to turn over ideas of what could be plausible without knowing the solution until now.

What kept me going though is the underlying reason towards the theft and the suspicious activity Ruby was engaged in prior to her demise. There had to be more to this whole circumstance than what was known on the surface – something perhaps quite ordinary and not explicitly untoward; as sometimes the best mysteries are just out of sight from what you already know to be true. Similar to peeling the layers of an onion, Edith and Lillian ferreted out each lead as if it were the critical piece which would complete the fuller picture of what was going on.

Seeing Bob Hope stride into the room where Edith and Lillian were trying to discuss the latest details they’ve pierced together seemed rather fitting. His easy manner and friendly demeanor also felt natural to me. I must admit, he was a fixture of my growing years – yet, it was only within the last batch of years I’ve started to seek out his earlier films. His legacy is as cherished as Edith’s, truth be told. Finding out Mr Hope had the scuttlebutt on Hollywood’s inner circle was not too surprising; he always came across as someone who would know a lot of ‘somebody’s’ with an eye on what everyone was up too as well. This was another classic move by the authors to ground their series with living persons to take their cues around the fictional characters who reside beside them. Sometimes the entrances were cheeky, other times it was an organic as Bob Hope seeking a fitting with Edith! No one stood on pedestals; except for those with overly inflated egos or side agendas.

Lillian’s hidden talent is acting but like any performer with stage fright, she comes into her own when the pressure is ‘off’. She’s like the Olympic skaters who hit their marks best after the competition stage of their Olympic hour is concluded. It’s quite telling of her character how she can be winsome in a fetchingly convincing persona but still have the moxie to believe the act in order to gain an advantage in her sleuthing. I especially liked seeing her exchange personalities and accents; whilst finding freedom in being an ‘alter ego’ of her own choosing and finding performing in the context of real life was more suited than for pretend in front of a camera. In many ways, what she was doing was even more daring and ballsy than acting on stage or screen because the stakes were higher for her to fail.

Whilst I was reading this story, I immediately remembered why I loved reading You’re the Cream in my Coffee and The Secret Life of Anna Blanc! Marjorie Corrigan would have gotten on like gangbusters with Lillian as they were birds of the same feather; fashion had smitten them! Whilst the evolving threads between Lillian and Detective Morrow reminded me of how Ms Blanc surprised a certain detective of her own! When it comes to Morrow and Lillian it is simply mutual respect – they each have the sleuthing bug in their veins and both of them draw similar conclusions about how to proceed with a case their investigating. I enjoyed seeing Morrow marvel at Lillian’s bold confidence and accepting her persona when he need not reveal her truer identity. I was hoping the seed planted in this novel of a potential relationship developing between them might be gradually built into something more in the sequels. There is a certain charm about their mannerisms and I do like two strong characters who find common interests whilst keeping each other on their toes at the same time! They would never tire of each other; as they each have a way of surprising the other either by the way their mind works out clues or by how far their willing to go to prove a point!

What a delicious ending! In the end, it was Edith and Lillian who stole the show! You just want to spend time in their company watching their friendship flourish and being caught inside a Hollywood minute! One thing is for certain: when in a pinch, best hope for Barbara Stanwyck to be round to be the driver who helps you tail a car! I kept thinking there was more to do with certain baubles rather than a love affair run foul; the delight for me of course is when all the layers of the onion were pulled back and put on display! Everyone was seen in the light of truth and it’s how the authors chose to tie this ending together that was most befitting of all! In many ways, the title is the best clue to the resolution – except if your not careful you might entice yourself into believing a red herring! lol More fodder for the imagination!

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I *love!* every inch of this novel! I adore the style of voice & the comedic narrative which endears you to the characters, as it’s such a readily approachable story! You simply fall into step behind Ms Frost & Edith Head! You’re their invisible shadow & apprentice walking beside their footsteps as you watch them thread their way through Hollywood & the toils of creating fashion in this fast-moving Cosy Historical Mystery which is a celebration of the 1930s!

It’s not just #unputdownable it’s a narrative feast of readerly delights which charm & entertain your bookish heart! I cannot wait to see where this series takes us next! Not to mention the fact it is so wickedly ‘me’ – from how the authors penned the story to where they set their series; I positively loved being hugged inside their wickedly conceived world! You want to live there and be a part of the action; whilst enjoying the adventures of the characters, too!

I simply *devoured!* this novel and I hope my ruminative thoughts compliment what was left for me to find within it’s pages… I so hope I conveyed everything bit of what I enjoyed reading because this was such a lushly illuminated piece of the historical past, you can get lost inside it’s chapters,… the only thing missing was a Cosmo. I found this series charmingly addictive and a strong cocktail would be a nice capstone to reading it!

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on becoming introduced to ‘renee patrick’:

This isn’t the first time I have fallen in love with a dual-writing team behind a wicked good series – as I personally *love!* the Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle + Historical Suspense novels by Charles Todd; whilst owning to the fact I’m a bit more smitten with the Bess Crawford mysteries! There are certain writers who have mastered the art of writing in one voice whilst being one of two halves of the writing team. I certainly am thankful for these writers who write wicked depth of character centred fiction with the added advantage of sweet world-building which draws you into their mind’s eye as you entreat inside their imagination!

I loved reading their Acknowledgement section as it embodied their sense of humour and their deep love of Classic Films whilst giving a proper nod of appreciation for TCM for their tireless efforts to preserve Classic Films. I concur with their sentiments and this is one reason the death of Robert Osborne touched my heart earlier this Spring as he was quite the cornerstone fixture of the channel and the work behind TCM. I cannot honestly say I agree with the choice of his replacement as I thought for sure Ben Mankiewicz was going to be his successor. In many ways, I think TCM is forever changed from the years I initially discovered it and hopefully as I retreat back to watching their marathons & specials I’ll find the same joy I once had.

As they listed books they read to research Edith Head, I was confounded to know if some of those titles were on my own list of #nextreads as I temporarily misplaced my forementioned List! If they are not (whenever I do find it!) I will surely be adding these as I truly want to soak inside more biographies and accounts of Classic Hollywood. I cannot imagine what it was like to read the correspondences of Ms Head but ooh, what a treasure! I fell in love with letters and correspondences as a young girl, whilst continuing to correspond with friends even now in my third decade – although, I used to constantly hand-write my letters, there came a time where I had to substitute typewritten letters (by computer) due to losing the stamina to write 20+ pages by hand! lol Now that I have my first retrofitted vintage typewriter (late 30s/early 40s Royal) – I aspire to click-clack my letters to my dearest friends inasmuch as find a slightly newer workhorse machine to type my manuscripts (by slightly, I refer to the late 40s or early 50s if possible, perhaps even a Remington!?). I broach this interest of mine as I wonder if Ms Head hand-wrote or typed her own correspondences? *snaps fingers!* Now, why hadn’t I thought to ask this for the Q&A on Friday!? Oy vie.

And, of course – how could I not be wicked itching to read this first entry of the series when they quoted one of my favourite actresses Barbara Stanwyck?

Their cheeky humour is well timed and brilliantly placed – as for instance – when your first observing the department store Tremayne – I’d like to hear from a reader who didn’t smirk themselves into a laugh when they read how the section manager arranged the wares of the women’s department! If that isn’t comedic and brilliantly astute of how to sell more stock than what is left behind, I don’t think I could capture his tenacious spirit better than the authors did! I love how they thread their setting and their world into your imagination by presenting you with both the aesthetics and readily understood ‘points of reference’ where envisioning their novel is a delight to your senses! They nail their era of choice by dialogue, background ambiance and the sensational brilliance of era-specific comedy!

My own love of this generation aided me in recognising the ‘pop cultural references’, the slang words and the tongue-in-cheek comedic bits which made this such a classically brilliant story to read! You wouldn’t readily suspect it was published in the 21st Century as it has such a strong vibe of realistically authentic representations of the ’30s! I love that about this series! Seriously, what is better than finding authors who have threaded a needle back inside the early Nineteen Hundreds?

With a somber heart, I had to agree with the sentiment of Ruby wherein she told Lillian she didn’t want to upset anyone in mistaking her for Jean Harlow; when I saw the Nick and Nora films in my early thirties (as a birthday binge fest!) what saddened me most was watching the documentaries about the lead stars: William Powell and Myrna Loy in which I learnt of his great love for the young actress and of how Loy was able to pull him out a bit from his depression following her death. These are two of my favourite duos in film and I do wish there had been a few more Nick and Nora adventures! This is one example of how the authors pulled trivia together which would be era specific and fitting to mention; as back then it would have still been on the minds and hearts of everyone involved in Hollywood or outside it from a film goers point-of-view.

Eek. They even mentioned Claudette Colbert! She’s singularly one of the actresses I champion for her range and her depth of emotional conviction – she truly touched my heart in Since You Went Away! This what I mean, dear hearts, this is a series for those who are wicked passionate about Old Hollywood and the lifestyles of those who worked behind the scenes of motion pictures! The artistry of course is how two writers took their passion for an Industry and funnelled into into a crisp and clear vision of yesteryear! I heart this series so very much! I imagine they’d be a wicked hit at the Classic Film Festival, I mean, just imagine!? Everyone would be reacting like I am! It’s a living tribute to a world we all feel enriched to re-visit each time we set our channel on TCM! And, that’s wicked brilliant!

I think what I appreciated most – despite everything I’ve already disclosed is how wicked clean this series is written! I love an absence of strong language for flavourful dialogue and narrative – where you can get creative by evoking emotion and scene without the use of vulgarity*. Honestly, this was such a refreshing novel to read, I hungrily drank in the words and phrases as it was such a switch-up to see the beauty of how words can transform time and era whilst not being gutted by what I find most abrasive by most entries in modern literature. This is a classy novel and a sophisticated beginning to a series I cannot wait to follow as all the installments release! It’s the kind of series you just instantly love for how it makes you feel whilst your reading it and for how well in-tune the authors are for their timescape. More, please! And, fast! Laughs with mirth.

*Fly in the Ointment: Except that a few naughty words were snuck in towards the ending pages and chapters; the one I demise most included. Oy. The strange thing is that I think it didn’t quite fly to be inclusive; when you go a steady 221 pages into a novel of 320 pages total, you have to question ‘why’ suddenly a clean Noir Cosy Historical Mystery has to be sprinkled with anything at all except what was it’s signature style of narrative thus far proven to work without the stronger bits? By this point, I was committed to the story, enthralled with it’s pacing and happy with the duo of sleuths setting the stage for a sweet sisterhood friendship to arch through the successive installments. If there had been more of these words, I might not have shrugged it off as lightly; but given the mouth the words came out of it was ‘par for course’; but evenso, it did wrinkle my brow more than once! It helped that Lillian chastised the character, too!

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I had forgotten Edith Head was the creative behind my favourite Hitchcock film’s fashion:


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This review is courtesy of: Tor / Forge

Whilst reading this wicked lovely series I tuned my headphones into #SlackerRadio’s 1940s station, listening to all the greats of a classically inspiring musical generation! The music of these artists befit the series so very well, it was an added layer of my reading experience to be transported backwards through time and re-entering the world in which Edith Head and Lillian Frost navigated their careers! I decided to reside musically in the 40s rather than opt to go further back as there is a quiet reverie of tone in this generation’s music which aesthetically matches reading a Cosy Historical Mysteries such as this one! It adds rather than detracts from your imagination as you follow the prompts of the authors’ pen!

I haven’t felt so eclipsed into the heart of a series from a musical point of entrance since I last read the Marjorie Trumaine Mysteries! I can see myself collecting vinyls of artists I listened too whilst reading both series – I was so enchanted by the selections playing! Both series felt dimensionally richer for the musical components!
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This book has happily been making it’s rounds in the book blogosphere!

Here’s the review I felt stood out not only for the wicked sweet book photography but for how it was reviewed!

Review | Books Before Bedtime

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!

Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Design for Dying”, book synopsis, author photograph of Renee Patrick and the author biography were all provided by the publisher Tor/Forge and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna  and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.

I’m a social reader | I tweet my reading life


Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Wednesday, 19 April, 2017 by jorielov in 20th Century, Amateur Detective, Barbara Stanwyck, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Book Review (non-blog tour), California, Cosy Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Detective Fiction, Edith Head, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Inspired by Stories, Lady Detective Fiction, Noir Crime Drama, Old Hollywood, the Nineteen Hundreds, the Thirties, Vintage Clothes & Boutiques, Vulgarity in Literature

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