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Death Was in the Picture: A Mystery Hardcover – January 20, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (January 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312383398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312383398
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,807,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in Hollywood in 1931, Richardss swell follow-up to Death Was the Other Woman (2008) finds ace-in-the-hole secretary Kitty Pangborn still lifting as much of the load as her PI boss, Dex Theroux, who has a tendency to spend his afternoons with all the boys: Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Jose Cuervo. Fortunately, Dex is sober when a mysterious man hires him, on behalf of a group of concerned citizens, to observe movie star Laird Wyndham, whose morality is suspect. Dex senses a setup, confirmed when Wyndham is arrested for a starlets murder. The turnaround is complete when Wyndham hires Dex to clear him. Richards handles the slang and patois of the period neatly. Likewise, she paints a vivid picture of the contrast between those just scraping by during the Depression and those living high on the hog. Kitty has plenty of moxie, and while Dex gets top billing on the office door, shes no second banana in this class act. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Kitty Pangborn was once a child of privilege. The crash of 1929 destroyed that illusion when her father committed suicide and left her with a fine Los Angeles home and no money. She makes do with boarders and a job as the secretary for competent, if alcoholic, private investigator Dexter Theroux. Hollywood star Laird Wyndham has survived the transition from silents to talkies, thanks to his regal bearing and deep voice. A mysterious man hires Theroux to tail Wyndham. No details. Just follow him. The first assignment is a Hollywood party, where a young ingénue is murdered. Wyndham, seen leaving the room in which her body was found, is quickly arrested. Complications with the original client loom when Wyndham hires Dex to find the killer and determine who set Wyndham up and why. The second Pangborn-Theroux caper builds nicely on the hard-boiled 1930s milieu established in Death Was the Other Woman (2008). Readers will unconsciously set their mind’s eye to play in black and white as they follow the sometimes funny, often melancholy adventures of two savvy Depression-era survivors. --Wes Lukowsky

More About the Author

I am the editor and co-founder of, one of the Web's leading magazines about books and authors. As a journalist, I've written extensively about books, authors, high tech and business for a number of publications. I am the author of seven novels, the most recent of which is DEATH WAS IN THE BLOOD (June 2013). I was raised in Los Angeles and Munich, but currently live near Vancouver, Canada, the city of my birth.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bundtlust TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Kitty Pangborn, shamus's assistant to Dex Theroux (Death Was the Other Woman: A Mystery), gets to meet the man of her silver screen dreams while on a case: Hollywood leading man Laird Wyndham is accused of murder, and it's up to Kitty, Dex, and Mustard (their driver and "procurement" specialist) to get to the bottom of the accusations. Kitty finds it hard to distance herself professionally; she's terminally star-struck at meeting Laird in person, so much so that she forgets to take notes (she's seen every film he starred in). But Kitty and Dex quickly dig up some unsavory truths on Laird's offscreen persona; an estranged wife, a jilted lover and several employees paint a less-than-glowing picture of a man with a hot temper and lusty appetites that know no boundaries.

The behind-the-scenes views of the 1930s-era film studios (and Production Code politics) are fascinating, and there's a moment of sheer comedic genius as Kitty goes undercover as an extra in a futuristic sci-fi film. Depression- and Prohibition-era LA play less of a starring role in "Death Was In The Picture," although architecture is still described in detail, and there are frequent mentions of Okies and the down-and-out. Kitty's own domestic life is largely absent, other than Marjorie's attempts to create dishes out of unappetizing substitutes when cash is low. She has her moment to shine in a designer Jean Patou silk beaded dress at a swank party, and does a lot of detective work trying to sniff out the truth behind Laird Wyndham and the sinister Xander Dean. Richards' novel is full of film noir touches and 1930s jargon that make it a pleasure to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on January 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In 1931 Hollywood secretary Kitty Pangborn continues to work for dissolute private investigator Dex Theroux even though she stepped into all sorts of trouble (see DEATH WAS THE OTHER WOMAN) while her employer spent time toasting the J brothers (Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Jose Cuervo). She is grateful that Dex is clean and sober when a paying client arrives. He says he represents interested nameless concerned citizens who want to hire him to conduct surveillance of movie star Laird Wyndham, as they think his morality is dubious at best.

Although he has doubts about the surveillance, he needs the money so accepts the case. However, his gut instincts prove right when the police arrest Laird charging him with murder. Desperate to clear his reputation, Wyndham hires Dex to find the real killer.

The latest Dex-Kitty Depression Era Hollywood investigative thriller is a superb period piece. Once again Kitty does yeoman work to keep Dex away from the J crowd. Dex is at his best in a one thing leads to another scenario with his gut constantly telling him to drop the case and turn to alcohol to numb the feelings of being a loser. Historical mystery fans will enjoy this fine 1930s whodunit as well as the previous Panghorn-Theroux case (see DEATH WAS THE OTHER WOMAN).

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ted Feit VINE VOICE on March 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Set in glamorous Hollywood deep in the Great Depression Era, just after the 1929 crash, this old-fashioned detective novel is the second featuring PI Dexter Theroux and his secretary-Girl Friday, Katherine (Kitty) Pangborn. Initially, Dex is retained to follow and observe a movie star. The target is arrested for the murder of a woman at the party at which Dex is observing him.

And in a twist, Dex drops the original client and now represents the movie star who hires him to find the real murderer. There are vivid descriptions of life during the Depression years, with shortages of money and food, as well as observations and background on the movie industry.

The author includes a couple of things this reader never knew, i.e., Los Angeles had a subway system in 1931, and while the infamous Hays Office was established with the help of the studios, it was ignored until strong-arm tactics forced compliance. The plot is well-told and -written, and lovers of the genre will not be disappointed.
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By Lou Allin on November 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It's 1931, and only Hollywood films are putting a smile on the face of the weary American people. Perky Girl-Friday Kitty Pangborn (memories of Franklin P)and her PI boss, heavy-drinking Dexter Theroux, become embroiled in a murder involving leading man Laird Wyndham. Together they make the rounds of high-flying parties and low-flying speakeasies where Prohibition is merely a word. Richards has her research filed to the tip of a French nail. Kitty is your favourite sister, your best friend, and a super secretary rolled into one. The devil's always in the details, and this canvas is spot on for atmosphere, snappy slang, and the occasional fedora. The scene where a land shark caught off the pier masquerades as kippers thanks to a dollop of smoky flavouring nearly brought tears to my eyes. More adventures, Kitty, and yes, you can bring along your boss.
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