Death and the Lit Chick
If you’re interested in the world of publishing and the outsize personalities some authors portray themselves to be, you’ll enjoy the mystery Death and the Lit Chick. This is the second mystery by G.M. Malliet to feature Detective Chief Inspector St. Just, and it’s juicy.
(The first, Death of a Cozy Writer, was one of those family sagas where the imperious father, in this case a famous author, has a flock of ne’er-do-well kids. They all gather to talk him out of remarrying, particularly since she’s a beautiful woman with a mysterious past, in order to protect their inheritances, but then, he’s killed. It’s an affectionate homage to a Christie-style house party with murder, and it’s a fun read in a different way, more old-fashioned than this.)
In Death and the Lit Chick, Kimberlee Kalder has become a well-known, successful mystery author by writing a chick-lit-style murder novel. It’s a thinly disguised treatment of her time as a magazine assistant, and it’s brought her the jealousy of other, more established authors with declining sales.
She, her agent, the attractive new agent she wants, her publisher, and these other authors have all been gathered at a mystery writers’ conference in Scotland. The celebs are staying at a castle, and one night, during a horrific storm that’s prevented anyone from getting in or out, Kimberlee’s body is found. To figure out who did it, St. Just has to put up with a fading diva, a thriller writer who’s rumored to be an ex-spy and his downtrodden wife, a couple of seemingly nice authors, the wannabe writer organizing the event, a scurrilous reporter, and a gorgeous academic whose appearance has captivated him.
The vibrant personalities and castle setting would make a terrific movie — something like Four Weddings and a Funeral crossed with Deathtrap leavened with a touch of Noises Off. The industry insights, sprinkled around the edges, will delight those interested in the business, such as why the authors all have copies of their own books with them.
Kimberlee is portrayed as if she were the heroine of her own book, a single, appearance-obsessed, light-headed young woman who just wanted to be famous, but there are some interesting suggestions as to how much success depends on being what the audience wants to see in its authors, and how many people confuse fiction with reality (within a work of fiction, of course). I gobbled it up.
There’s a third in the series, which unfortunately seems to have ended for now. Death at the Alma Mater, which I haven’t read yet, sends St. Just to a college fundraising weekend. It doesn’t seem as connected to mystery writing and those who do it, which is a shame, because these first two demonstrate a real affection for the genre that shines through for readers. There’s an excerpt from Death and the Lit Chick at the author’s website.