Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Dorothy Parker Murder Case: Review

The Dorothy Parker Murder Case is the first of thirteen fictional celebrity mysteries written by George Baxt.  Later novels feature such luminaries as Mae West, Clark Gable, and Bette Davis--to name just a few.  While each novel features a different cast of stars, Detective Jacob Singer is the lawman in each case.

The opener has Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott and their Algonquin Round Table colleagues mixed up in a murder mystery that starts with a strangled Ziegfeld Follies girl who is discovered dead in George Kaufman's secret love nest.  Kaufman didn't do it and can't figure out who would plant the dead girl on him.  The girl was last seen in Rudolph Valentino's company at a high-profile party hosted by the mysterious (and uber-rich) Lacey Van Weber.  Valentino is also dead--officially of a severe pleuritis attack, but there are rumors he was poisoned.  Are the two deaths connected?  Mrs. Parker knows a detective who will help them get to the bottom of things--without immediately assuming that Kaufman is guilty just because the body is in his bedroom.

Mrs. Parker is looking for some excitement in her life (she's just tried to commit suicide...again) and decides that helping Detective Singer look for clues and track down bad guys is just what the doctor ordered.  It helps that she gets to spend lots of time posing innocent questions to the handsome, blue-eyed charmer, Van Weber,  a man whose life seems to be a mirror of that fictional playboy, Jay Gatsby.  The investigation will take Parker, Woollcott, and Singer through speakeasies and playhouses; from Italian restaurants to high class brothels.  Others to be questioned include George Raft, Florenz Ziegfeld, Polly Adler, and Texas Guinan.  And the trail will lead west all the way to Hollywood and the unsolved murder of director William Desmond Taylor.

This was a fun, tongue-in-cheek look at the Roaring Twenties.  Lots of word play, satire, and quips...mostly well-played and only occasionally over-the-top.  George Baxt has a way of making it seem absolutely plausible that all these well-known stars might set out to play detective on their own.  I've previously read three others of the celebrity series (The Clark Cable & Carole Lombard Murder Case; The William Powell & Myrna Loy Murder Case; and The Alfred Hitchcock Murder Case).  So far, I've rate them all at an even three stars.  They are light entertainment and not meant to be terribly puzzling.  A good read for a lazy afternoon that will make time fly by quickly.

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