Though you’d never know it from the weather forecast, summer is fast approaching. And while I love a moody, atmospheric historical mystery all year round, these days I find myself reaching for stories that are a little sunnier than my usual Victorian or WWII fare. I crave something fresh — a new-to-me setting, an unfamiliar cast, a lighter tone — even in the face of murder most foul. Not quite a vacation read, but something more…effervescent.
If you, too, are in the mood for a historical mystery that’s long on charm and short on gloom, now is the perfect time to check out Renee Patrick’s DESIGN FOR DYING and its sequel, DANGEROUS TO KNOW.
Set in Hollywood’s Golden Era, the books follow Lillian Frost, an aspiring actress-turned department store clerk who teams up with Edith Head, the legendary costume designer, to solve mysteries involving the film industry. As the series opens, Edith has yet to win any of her eight Academy Awards, but she’s a force to be reckoned with nevertheless.
The mystery itself is twisty and fast-paced, but the true delight is the interactions between starry-eyed Lillian and pragmatic, impeccably-dressed Edith. A veritable parade of Old Hollywood stars, from Marlene Dietrich to Bob Hope, pass through Paramount’s costume department, revealing the personalities behind the famous faces. The stories are a funny, glamorous romp that doesn’t skimp on character development or suspense. If you’re a fan of classic movies – and solidly constructed whodunits – this is definitely a series you’ll want to check out. And if you’re interested in seeing Edith’s creations on the screen, here’s a list of her movies from our collection.