Monday 6 February 2012

Kathleen Moore Knight - Exit a Star (1941)

"I don't like detective work...I don't like prying into other people's affairs. I don't like playing tricks and telling white lies and sitting in judgment on my fellow humans."

"I'm not gonna try it--you try it!" Television viewers of a certain age might remember the seventies "Mikey" commercial in which two boys look suspiciously at a bowl of Life cereal refusing to have a taste of it and finally giving the bowl to a third child to sample, which is how I felt about the mystery novels of Kathleen Moore Knight. Not difficult to find, inexpensive, plenty of titles to choose from but no one ever seemed to read them or blog about them. I was always waiting for "someone else" to review them so that I could decide whether they were worth reading or not. Finally, tired of playing the waiting game, I have read my first Knight title and you know what? I liked it! Hey, Mikey!

Exit a Star is the second title in the Margot Blair series. Blair, a principal in the public relations firm of Norman and Blair, has taken on a new client, Susan Holland, an up-and-coming theatre ingenue who has just landed her first role in a "Lynn Speakman" play. Giving Susan publicity as the best-dressed-girl-of-the-moment and spotlighting her fabulous Mlle Denise gowns should be easy enough except for one thing or perhaps I should say one person, Speakman's frequent and nasty star, Lucia Dracott. Somehow Dracott has obtained copies of Susan's "exclusive" gowns and is wearing them to the same functions that Susan is to attend, insinuating and trying to give Susan bad publicity as a silly copy-cat. While practicing the play at a rural theatre and following another humiliation of Susan, the atmosphere is tense. Speakman seems tired of Lucia, she is antagonistic towards the other cast members and it is not long before someone decides to promote Lucia as the fading-star-most-likely-to-be-found-murdered with Susan set to be the scapegoat. Reluctantly, Margot sets out to clear her client, a task made all the more difficult since Susan has disappeared.

Knight packs a lot into 300 pages. Backbiting, secret relationships, blackmail, betrayal and a murderer who, of course, just can't stop with one death. Add a dash of humour ("I see cactus is being worn this season") and a killer whose identity is well-hidden and you have a winning mystery. Now I just have to ask myself why I didn't take the Kathleen Moore Knight plunge earlier.

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