Henry had had no very clear idea of what he expected the Editor of Style to look like, but the moment that Margery French walked in he realised that she filled the role to perfection. Everything was right – the beautifully-cut suit, the blue-rinsed hair, the impeccable make-up, the fine sensitive hands embellished with one outsize topaz ring on the wedding finger. It was hard to believe that this woman, who must be nearer 60 than 50, had been working late into the night: and still more difficult to remember that she had just been woken from her well-earned rest with news of a shocking disaster. Certainly the sergeant’s forebodings about hysterical women were unfounded in this instance.
“Good morning, Inspector Tibbett,” said Margery, briskly. “This is terrible and tragic business. Please tell me all about it, and let me know how I can help you…”
observations: Rich Westwood, Mr Past Offences himself, does a roundup each month on his blog of Classic Crime in the Blogosphere , a meme in which Clothes in Books is proud to make regular appearances. For June, he suggested that prospective participants should concentrate on one year: the 1963 challenge. Perfect for me, as I’ve been meaning to feature this book for a while – and also this rather wonderful photograph.
Murder a la Mode is set in the offices of a fashion magazine, where one of the writers has been murdered in the aftermath of the Paris collections, as the staff pull an all-nighter to prepare for their biggest issue of the year. (Fans of The Devil Wears Prada and the film The September Issue will find this familiar ground.) While the magazine is called Style, you wouldn’t be in a moment’s doubt that we are talking Vogue here, and the authenticity is so very obvious that I didn’t really need to check on Moyes’ biography on Wikipedia to find out that she worked there as Assistant Editor. The Inspector Tibbett mysteries are very much cozy and traditional, and his wife Emmy is no feminist trailblazer: I wouldn’t have been surprised to find that Moyes had been a Home Counties matron writing books when not doing the flowers for the church – but that is far from the case, and she had an intriguing career.
The book is a joy to read just because of the setting, and the eccentric and Bohemian magazine staff and their associates, and the details of their working lives. For example, the editor above is earlier shown wearing her hat at her desk – something we looked at earlier this month in this entry, with this picture:
-- yes, it looks exactly like Clothes in Books herself, hard at work, but it is milliner Lilly Dache.
In Murder a la Mode, ‘the black straw hat was beginning to grow uncomfortably tight around her temples, but she would no more have dreamed of taking it off than of undressing in public.’
The picture is by Toni Frissell from the Library of Congress: it is widely described, and has been for years, as being taken at Victoria Station (where fashion editors travelling back from Paris by the boat-train would expect to arrive). But in the world of crowd-sourcing correction, and in an unlikely conjunction of high fashion and trainspotters, it is now claimed for Paddington. It bears an entirely coincidental resemblance to one of yesterday's photos...
Rich Westwood of Past Offences has guest-blogged on Clothes in Books, on The Woman in White.
More from fashion magazines in the Anne Scott-James book In the Mink - lots of entries, click on the label below.