Design for Dying is a stylish novel by Renee Patrick – a tale of murder, mystery, glitz, and glamour in 1930s Hollywood. And can I just say: Bless you, Renee Patrick, for reminding me how much I love mystery novels and classic whodunits! I’m having some serious Nancy Drew flashbacks.
Mystery = Clever, classy, witty, scandalous, and all sorts of shady! Who did it and who can be trusted???
Everyone who loves a good mystery! There are A LOT of 1930s turn of phrases that were clearly lost on me, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie, Nancy Drew, Veronica Mars, Castle, Bones, Murder She Wrote, old-school Hollywood and the like, I think you’ll love this book. Did I cover enough fandoms there? I think so.
Lillian Frost, department store salesgirl and former stardom-hopeful, has been informed of and subsequently questioned for the murder of a former friend and roommate, Ruby Carroll, who was found wearing a stolen gown from Paramount Pictures’ wardrobe department. With this tragic news Lillian’s relatively steady life is turned upside, but she takes it in stride as she joins forces with Edith Head (that’s right, the Edith Head, who will later – in real life – win eight Academy Awards for costume design) and a mysterious, handsome and quietly charming Detective to unravel the mystery of Ruby’s murder and catch a killer.
Renee Patrick perfectly captured “The Golden Age of Hollywood”, depicting it from all sides – the pizzazz, vitality, and grit of star-studded LA and the unsavory aspects and characters that accompany it. And the fashion sealed the deal. This book is probably the closest I’ll every get to Paramount Pictures – so I’ll live vicariously through Lillian and Edith.
GUMPTION! These characters have it. Lots of it. Lillian Frost is gutsy, brave, and witty while Edith Head matches her in every way and simultaneously takes on an almost fairy-godmother-like role. Girl Power!
We are also introduced to a wide range of other characters that make for a very interesting lineup of suspects that’ll keep you on your toes the entire time.
What I Liked
I liked everything about this book!
It kept me guessing. I never felt 100% certain of who the culprit was and obviously I enjoyed that, because it’s no fun if it’s too easy 😛
The pacing was well done. It wasn’t too slow or too fast and it smoothly transitioned between present day and flashbacks, enhancing the storytelling and the story itself.
And it made sense! The plot followed a logical, yet inventive trail of crumbs and when all was said and done, everything made sense. Which I liked, because I hate really dislike when authors seem to pull explanations out of left field.
P.S. If you really want to get into the swing of things – read this book during your husband’s (or wife’s) old school jazz band rehearsal 😛 It worked for me.
What I Liked a Little Less
Are you guys getting tired of me harping on about romance? No? Good 😀
I would’ve liked to see a little more romance here, but again, that’s completely personal preference and has nothing to do with the quality of the story or the writing – both of which were awesome. This is above all else, a murder mystery, not a romance novel. Renee Patrick gave us just enough romance to tease at a potential relationship. One that I can only hope develops further in the next book(s). …There will be more books, right? Please say yes!
Overall, I’d give Design for Dying 4.5/5 stars! It was sly and intriguing (did I mention stylish?) and it rekindled my long-forgotten love for mystery books (yes, even the non-supernatural, non-magical kind). I highly recommend giving this a read!
If you’ve already read it, check out my spoilery review here and we can compare notes 😀