Death Was the Other Woman
Review: Long-time fans of hard-boiled detective writers Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler or newcomers to the genre are in for a fun ride when Linda L. Richards' 1930s gal Friday, twenty-one-year-old Katherine "Kitty" Pangborn, and her liquor-loving L.A. gumshoe boss, Dexter J. Theroux, team up to solve a missing persons (or is it murder?) case in Death Was the Other Woman.
Richards has got everything about the genre down pat. "Dex is tall and dreamy," she says. "Oh. Sure, he's a mook, but he's the kind of a mook that can heat a girl's socks, if you follow my drift. The kind that can get your lipstick melting." But Dex has got a problem with booze, bad memories from The Great War and getting enough clients for a regular pay check for him and Kitty. But when Rita Heppelwaite comes calling in "her apple-skin tight dress," offering Dex a bundle to spy on her boyfriend, Dex and Kitty are off and running. They ramble around L.A. by Red Car street car or in a rented auto with "a new bottle of Jack Daniel's on the passenger seat," stopping at speakeasies, nightclubs and casinos in search of the two-timing married boyfriend who may or may not be "chilled, neat and sweet." And while they follow the clues from L.A. to ‘Frisco they're surrounded by characters as memorable as any that Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe might know. Besides Rita and her missing married squeeze, there's Dex's army friend, "a fixer," and tough guy sidekick, Mustard aka "Mus," and Kitty's former housekeeper Marjorie Oleg, and now her landlady, after Kitty's father simultaneously took a bath and a dive in the stock market crash of '29, and Marjorie and her husband took over the homestead and turned it into a rooming house. It becomes a hideaway too for "Brucie," the young wife of a dead mobster, "a torpedo." She's got ties to others besides her dearly departed, much to Kitty's surprise. Then there's Lilla Dempsey, the wife of her married boyfriend Rita wanted found, and a Rita Mayhew, who may or may not be the alias for another character that turns up in the most unexpected of places. Hopscotch, a big-time gambler, and his threats about welchers getting "zotzed" also has his role to play. And, of course, there's a dead guy in a bathtub and the riddle of who he is, where the body was found, how it got there, why it suddenly disappears, and where it turns up. And what do the two steamship tickets that Kitty finds have to do with the case?
In all, Death Was the Other Woman is first class entertainment. There's an historical richness to the 1930's references to L.A and ‘Frisco landmarks, the "okies," icons and events of the day, and the songs of the times. Dex, although conflicted, is likeable, especially within the context of his past, and Kitty even more so as she recalls former times with her father but struggles with her future when she meets up with some of her former friends and finishing school classmates on the San Francisco trip. The plot is solid and with enough surprises to keep the reader glued to the page. And as for the story's ending, even though Kitty says, "It was over. It was done. And I was glad.", the case still leaves her wondering if someone had "orchestrated the death of her husband."
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (firstname.lastname@example.org) for contributing his review of Death Was the Other Woman.
Review Copyright © 2008 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Mira Books (Mass Market Paperback), September 2006
ISBN-13: 9780778323457; ISBN-10: 0778323455
Death Was in the Picture
Minotaur Books (Hardcover), January 2009
ISBN-13: 9780312383398; ISBN-10: 0312383398
Location(s) referenced in Death Was the Other Woman: Los Angeles, California
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Death Was the Other Woman by Linda L. Richards — A Kitty Pangborn Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: January 2008
List Price: $23.95