Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pg. 69: Linda L. Richards' "Death Was the Other Woman"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Linda L. Richards' Death Was the Other Woman.

About the book, from the publisher's website:
As the lawlessness of Prohibition pushes against the desperation of the Depression, there are two ways to make a living in Los Angeles: join the criminals or collar them. Kitty Pangborn has chosen the crime-fighters, becoming secretary to Dexter J. Theroux, one of the hard-drinking, tough-talking PIs who pepper the city's stew. But after Dex takes an assignment from Rita Heppelwaite, the mistress of Harrison Dempsey, one of L.A.'s shadiest -- and richest -- businessmen, Kitty isn't so sure what side of the law she's on.

Rita suspects Dempsey has been stepping out and asks Dex to tail him. It's an easy enough task, but Dex's morning stroll with Johnnie Walker would make it tough for him to trail his own shadow. Kitty insists she go along for the ride, keeping her boss -- and hopefully her salary -- safe. However, she's about to realize that there's something far more unpleasant than a three-timing husband at the end of this trail, and that there's more at risk than her paycheck.

Richly satisfying and stylishly gritty, Death Was the Other Woman gives a brand-new twist to the hard-boiled style, revealing that while veteran PIs like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe spent their time slugging scotch and wooing women, it may well have been the Girl Fridays of the world who really cracked the cases.
Among the praise for Death Was the Other Woman:
“You’re about to meet a new great dame of crime fiction in Death Was the Other Woman. Linda L. Richards does a stunning job in creating a character with a voice and eye right out of a 1930s L.A. hard-boiled classic: guns and gams, booze and bodies, peepers and perps. Move over, Sam Spade: Kitty Pangborn is on the case.”
--Linda Fairstein, author of Death Dance

“Richards takes a break from her Madeline Carter series (Mad Money, etc.) with this winning hard-boiled 1931 whodunit with a twist: the main sleuth is not world-weary L.A. PI Dex Theroux, but his loyal secretary and assistant, Kitty Pangborn. Theroux, who drinks far too much to drown his memories of WWI, gets a rare paying assignment when beautiful, wealthy Rita Heppelwaite hires him to tail her married boyfriend, Harrison Dempsey. Kitty tags along, only to find their quarry's corpse, a development that Theroux wants to keep secret. After her conscience prompts her to tip off the police to the body, Kitty finds herself involved even deeper when word reaches her that Dempsey is alive and well. Well-developed lead characters, in particular the insightful Kitty ... shows potential as a series detective...”
--Publishers Weekly

“Using a female narrator for a Depression-era noir tale seems a calculated strategy, but Richards makes it work naturally. Kitty, whose life of privilege disappeared when her father killed himself after the 1929 stock market crash, brings a peculiarly ironic point of view, filtering the tough guys, broads, gats, and gunsels through a patrician context that makes all the hard-boiled posturing seem as silly as high-society tomfoolery. Honoring the noir tradition while turning it on its head, Richards’ richly detailed period portrays a world in which lifestyles, whether high or low, become an elaborate defense against a harsh environment in which there is only one final act and the trick is to determine the time the curtain falls. Expect to hear more from Kitty Pangborn.”

“Sharp, vibrant and crackling. One chapter in to Linda L. Richards’ sparkling 1930s Los Angeles mystery, Death Was the Other Woman, and we’d follow her smart, resourceful, spirited heroine, Kitty Pangborn, down any dark alley, any mean street.”
--Megan Abbott, author of The Song is You and Queenpin

“With crackling dialogue and bang-on authenticity, Death Was the Other Woman engrossed me in a terrific, compelling mystery. With memorable characters and settings, Richards manages to dig beneath the surface of Prohibition-era Los Angeles and give a sense of its historical context. A great read!”
--Dan Kalla, internationally bestselling author of Pandemic and Blood Lies

Death Was the Other Woman propelled me straight into depression-era Los Angeles, a really stunning and exciting achievement. And the murder kept me guessing right to the page turning end. On top of that, the lively characters have walked off the page and now pursue me long after I’ve closed the book. A really stellar crime caper, a delight.”
--Lousie Penny, author of Still Life

“Reading Death Was the Other Woman was like stumbling across a long-lost and wonderful Orson Welles flick. It’s a pitch-perfect story of Depression-era LA that’s so damn good I recommend calling in sick to work and making a plate of sandwiches before you start reading, because you won't want to put it down for anything -- including such petty concerns as food, drink, sleep, and oncoming Packards and locomotives.”
--Cornelia Read, author of A Field of Darkness

Death Was the Other Woman “is a great period piece with action aplenty and nostalgia-evoking characters.”
--Library Journal
Visit the official Death Was the Other Woman website.

Linda L. Richards is the editor and co-founder of January Magazine and a regular contributor to The Rap Sheet. Her books include three novels in the Madeline Carter series.

The Page 69 Test: Death Was the Other Woman.

--Marshal Zeringue