As if the force of gravity ended at the top of her skull, Miss Holt had managed to place a halo-like hat exactly at that point. There it remained magically…. She decorated an otherwise skimpy but docile little suit with a cheap bunch of artificial, blue cornflowers. Amazingly, Susan thought, the tout ensemble of the young woman’s toilet possessed that tenuous quality known to her business as chic. She murmured as much to her woman companion, who sniffed audibly, after one glance at the redhead, and said: ‘Darling if I didn’t know all about your
Susan shook her head. ‘She has, my lamb, that thing you can improve upon but not endow – natural taste. One could make a knockout of her with a little time and trouble.’
observations: Curtis Evans, of the excellent Passing Tramp crime fiction blog, brought this one to my attention: he wrote about author and books here and here, and has had a hand in the reprint, by Coachwhip Publications, of 3 of Emma Lou Fetta’s mysteries. Nothing could be more up the Clothes in Book street than a 1930s murder story set in the fashion industry, so naturally I ordered it, and was delighted to find that Curt had written a fascinating and comprehensive introduction (which should definitely be read after the book in fact…)
|World of Fashion Luncheon, New York 1940|
A group of women representing branches of the fashion industry are meeting for a business luncheon in New York – they are organizing a special show. One dies after taking a vitamin pill. Naturally, she was an out-and-out trouble-maker, and everyone in a 50-metre radius might have a motive to kill her. Investigations follow, and anonymous notes, and sinister meetings in the park at midnight, and a lot of discussion of clothes, the fashion world, and career women.
It is not the greatest murder story ever written, but it is great fun, and full of fascinating sociological detail: the woman have huge handbags, rather like the It bags of today; one woman puts on a marabou jacket to sit up in bed and eat her breakfast; a successful radio personality is hoping that she might be able to take a role in the new industry of television. One character wears ‘a hat like a flashlight camera’ – I’m guessing that might be this kind of shape:
-- like those cameras press photographers have in films of the era.
More on the blog from the obvious suspects – Margery Allingham’s Fashion in Shrouds, and Christianna Brand’s Death in High Heels, are both similar detective stories set in the fashion world, as is Patricia Moyes’ Murder a la Mode – and, there is another book of that name, which I am hoping to read soon. The other (earlier) Murder a la Mode is by Eleanor Kelly Sellars – writer and blogger Helen Szamuely found it and recommended it to me. Watch out for it…