Linda L. Richards' second Kitty Pangborn crime novel, Death Was in the Picture, is a vivid portrayal of Depression era Los Angeles, with the contrast between Hollywood, and the ordinary people. Kitty, an innocent, but tough, young woman, provides a fascinating view of the times.
Kitty Pangborn is secretary to Dex Theroux, a hard-drinking, womanizing detective, typical of the times. Dex agrees to watch Laird Wyndham, a movie star, and even attends a party in order to do the job. But, things are not what they seem, and Laird is arrested for murder, with Dex as a witness that he saw Wyndham go into the room in which a starlet died.
Neither Dex nor Kitty are willing to accept Laird's guilt, and they agree to take his case, and find the actual killer. Dex needs Kitty to act as his date at The Masquers Club, and portray an extra on a movie lot. Suddenly, Kitty is deeply involved in a murder investigation.
Kitty's innocence is a perfect vehicle for describing 1931 Hollywood, and the contrast between the movie world, and ordinary people. While Kitty struggles to find a nickel to go to the movies, those involved in the movie industry are living the high life, with parties, drink, and food beyond Kitty's wildest dreams. Kitty leads the life that readers expect during the Depression, living in her own home turned into a boarding house, and celebrating when there's seafood for dinner. She's desperate to keep her job at a time when Okies are flooding into California, in search of work.
However, the world of the studio system is dirtier than Kitty knows. And, it's easy to get on the wrong side of the studios and the press, and forces more powerful than she can imagine. It will take a great deal of digging for Kitty and Dex to find the truth about the murder of a starlet.
Death Was in the Picture is a successful sequel to Richards' Death Was the Other Woman. Richards, and Kitty, bring 1931 Hollywood to life.
Linda L. Richards' website is www.lindalrichards.com
Death Was in the Picture by Linda L. Richards. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312383398 (hardcover), 288p.