My own tastes in mysteries and crime fiction run more from hard-boiled (the harder the better) to noir – classic, ‘neo’ and everything in between. For some reason though, I’ll happily embrace softer or lighter-toned material (though rarely so-called ‘cozies’) in retro settings. I don’t know why flipping the calendar back a few decades dials up my interest level, but it always has.
Perfect example: Renee Patrick’s Lillian Frost & Edith Head series, with two novels released so far, Design For Dyingand Dangerous To Know. Set in late 1930’s Hollywood, the first in 1937 and the next the following year, the novels introduce Lillian Frost, a New York transplant trading dreams of silver screen stardom for a job in a department store, initially poking into the murder of a former roommate found wearing an elegant gown stolen from the Paramount Pictures costume department, domain of Edith Head, who’s not yet the multi-Oscar nominated designer. The books include cameos from famous Golden Age stars and do an excellent job of portraying this often used location and time period.
Renee Patrick is actually a pen name for the husband and wife team of Rosemarie and Vince Keenan (shades of G.G. Fickling of Honey West fame). Their well-drawn lead, Lillian Frost, is a classic ‘plucky’ girl detective type, celebrating the clichés while paving some new ground at the same time. The able assistance of designer Edith Head is a brave but inspired choice. Hard-boiled or noir-ish? Not a bit. But both books were absolute delights, and I hope there’ll be more. Try them, or go to reneepatrickbooks.com to learn more about the series.