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DANGEROUS TO KNOW
by Renee Patrick
Forge, April 2017
332 pages
$25.99
ISBN: 0765381869


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In their second appearance, Lillian Frost, failed starlet, and Edith Head, costume designer at Paramount Pictures are asked by Marlene Dietrich to find her missing friend and accompanist, Jens Lohse, who has not been seen in two weeks.

Unfortunately it does not take long for Lillian to find Lohse's body at the bottom of a ravine at the cabin of a renowned German composer of ultra-modern music, a la Arnold Schoenberg. However, the composer and his wife are missing. Lillian has been assisted in her search by Paramount driver Simon Fischer, an appealing WW I vet who keeps turning up.

Edith does not approve, suspecting he might supplant Lillian's sometime beau, LAPD's Gene Morrow, who can't seem to get on with the romance with Lillian, no matter how Edith frowns on the competition. And then suspicions arise that Simon is a Nazi spy.

One of the most delightful things about DANGEROUS TO KNOW is the cameos by Hollywood greats. George Burns and Jack Benny reveal character traits we might have guessed when they are caught up in a scheme to smuggle in Parisian goods without paying the exorbitant duties. Even Leni Riefenstahl appears, showing her film Olympia at a secret Hollywood gathering. Credit is given where it is due as Lillian is overwhelmed by the beauty of the film and its worship of the athletic human form. Even J. Edgar Hoover makes a cameo appearance.

The politics of America, circa 1938, are deeply embedded in DANGEROUS TO KNOW.

The FBI does not appear in a very good light, as they pooh-pooh the idea of Nazi spies because it's the Jews who are warning them, but are obsessed with the commies they see behind every Jew's mask.

Edith Head is the brains behind this crime fighting team, but Lillian is the girl on the ground, brave, adventurous and fearless. Lohse's murder is unraveled in an exciting scene on a boat in the dark and in the rain, when both the murderer and Lillian's rescuers are dressed for the occasion, just as Edith had said, "…the power of wardrobe could not be denied."

Fun all around, whether you are a fan of Hollywood's Golden Age or not. Let's hope Rosemarie and Vince Keenan (who write up as Renee Patrick) bring back Lillian Frost and Edith Head soon for more adventures in the movie world of Pre-World War Hollywood.

§ Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, May 2017

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