1931 brings a second breezy outing for L.A. shamus Dexter J. Theroux and Kitty Pangborn, the Gal Friday who was the brains of the outfit in their debut (Death Was the Other Woman, 2008), but who isn’t this time.
Acting on behalf of concerned citizens who wish to remain anonymous, Xander Dean hires Dex Theroux to tail nonpareil movie star Laird Wyndham, allegedly to check out his morals. The job takes Dex and his hired companion, aging starlet Rhoda Darrow, to a party where he’s on hand to see Wyndham emerging from a murder scene. Not until the police arrest Wyndham for breaking Fleur MacKenzie’s neck does Dex realize what most readers will have intuited from the get-go: He’s been set up as a witness by someone who wants to destroy Wyndham. There follow a series of episodes as rapid and weightless as cliffhangers in a 12-part Hollywood serial. Wyndham hires Dex to prove his innocence. A second party brings Kitty face to face with over-the-hill actor Baron Sutherland and Joe, a mysterious censor from Chicago. Wyndham’s wife, a retired actress, indicates that there’s something deeply untrustworthy about him. Dex and Kitty go undercover on the production of Journey of the Long Night to absolutely no effect. Eventually it’s time for the denouement, so Dex—not dumbfounded Kitty—produces a suspect and a motive from thin air, and the closing credits roll.
Stop-and-go detection, inconsequential complications and a heroine who alternates between tough-cookie smarts and breathtaking stupidity.