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WHO KILLED THE PINUP QUEEN?
By Toni L. P. Kelner
Berkley Prime Crime, 2010 ($6.99)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Tilda Harper is a Boston freelance writer specializing in the entertainment field, with a special interest in the current lives of former movie and TV stars. She is just finishing up an article on former pinup queen Sandra Sechrest, known in her heyday as "Sandy Sea Chest," when the editor of Entertain Me!, offers her an important assignment, with the potential of full-time employment when she's done. Brothers Hoyt and Tucker Ambrose and Cynthia Barth, the stars of a popular 1950's show, Cowtown, want to build a resort based on the show in western Massachusetts. Tilda's assignment is to interview people who were associated with the show, including guest stars, and to help with a fund raiser with a Cowtown theme to raise money for Stickler Syndrome. Getting to know the spokesman for the cause, the hunky Dr. Quentin Beaudine, is a bonus.
First she has to wind up her article on Ms. Sechrest. Before there was Hef and Playboy, there were pinup girls who posed for professional photographers and members of amateur camera clubs. Sandra embraces her past, and has even started making money by selling signed photos and t-shirts on a website her niece maintains. Some of the pinup girls went on to bigger careers, others have distanced themselves from those days, some disappeared into obscurity, and some want to deny they ever participated in the slightly risqué profession. Would one of them go so far as murder to protect their secret? When Tilda stumbles over Sandra's body, the thought crosses her mind. In her research, she's discovered that at least one of the ladies associated with Cowtown was a contemporary of Sandra's, and she does not want that fact known. Still, Tilda finds it doubtful that an elderly woman could have struck the vicious killing blow.
The trauma of finding the elderly woman bludgeoned to death causes Tilda to have gory nightmares, much to the annoyance of her cranky roommate Colleen. She hopes that if she can track down the killer and get justice for Sandra they might stop. If not, she'll be needing a new roommate, and perhaps resign herself to sleeping alone, or not sleeping at all.
Tilda's job, much like a detective's, involves tracking down information of all kinds, and she is very good at her job. She is wise enough to share her findings with the police when they might be helpful, and she is kind enough to know when to withhold information that would only be hurtful to innocent people. She's a likable character, she rarely does dumb things, and she is one smart cookie. Her area of research is interesting, especially to the Boomer population and to the younger generation just learning about the shows from the Golden Age of Television.
Kelner's first book in the "Where Are They Now?" series is CURSE OF THE KILLING COUSINS. This is the second in the series, and I found it equally enjoyable. The author won an Agatha Award for her short story, "Sleeping With the Plush" (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, May 2006).
Would you like to read a review of CURSE OF THE KILLING COUSINS? Click here.
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