Mixing Hollywood glitz with hard-boiled grit, Death Was in the Picture captures the essence of life in Depression-era Los Angeles: a world where times are tough, talk is cheap, and murder is often just one scene away.
In 1931, while most of Los Angeles is struggling to survive the Depression, the business of Hollywood is booming. And everyone wants a piece. The movies have always been cutthroat and, as girl Friday Kitty Pangborn is about to find out, that's more than a metaphor.
Kitty's boss, private detective Dexter Theroux, has been asked to help leading man Laird Wyndham prove his innocence. The actor was the last person to be seen with a young actress who died under very suspicious circumstances, and the star has fallen from the big screen to the big house. Wyndham's a dreamboat, but that isn't the only thing that has Kitty hot under the collar. Dex has already signed a client---one who's hired him to prove Wyndham's hands are not as clean as they look.
Set in Hollywood in 1931, Richards's 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 starlet's 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, she's no second banana in this class act.