Who Killed the Pinup Queen? (A Where Are They Now? Mystery)
by Toni L. P. Kelner
Cover Artist: Kimberly Schamber
Review by Cathy Green
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425232057
Date: 05 January 2010 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Tilda Harper, the amateur sleuth from The Curse Of The Kissing Cousins, is back and still working as a freelance entertainment reporter, with Entertain Me magazine as her biggest client. This time around, Tilda's working on an article on Pinup Queens, and more specifically on how one former pinup queen is using the internet to make a profit off her former notoriety.
Entertain Me also asks her to write a series of articles about an old TV western called Cowtown whose producers are raising money to open a cowboy themed resort in Massachusetts. As part of the assignment, Tilda gets dragooned into helping plan a fundraiser to raise money for research into a genetic disease called Stickler Syndrome. As a bonus, her boss at Entertain Me holds out the possibility of a full-time position at the magazine, and she gets to plan the fundraiser with a really cute doctor. The cute doctor reciprocates her interest, much to the chagrin of Tilda's nemesis Nicole.
Unfortunately, all this good fortune is rapidly followed by bad luck, as the pinup queen Tilda interviewed is murdered and Tilda discovers the body. Suffering from nightmares about the murder, and getting almost pushed under a bus, Tilda goes into amateur detective mode in an effort to purge her demons and solve the crime. The more research she does, the more it looks like the pinup murder might be related somehow to her Cowtown assignment, especially when one of the Cowtown stars dies at the fundraiser under mysterious circumstances.
This is a solid entry in Toni L.P. Kelner's Where Are They Now mystery series. Kelner has clearly done her homework regarding the old pinup models and the amateur camera clubs and professionals who photographed them. In a nice touch, one of the running jokes in the book is that virtually every woman of a certain age Tilda encounters turns out to have a hidden past as a pinup queen. There's a nice bit where she's interviewing a soap opera actress who is concerned about her pinup past being exposed, and Tilda advises her to release the information herself, after first telling the writers and producers of her soap opera and suggesting her background as a good storyline for her character, since the story writes itself, the publicity would be good and her small part would be considerably beefed up.
In The Curse Of The Kissing Cousins, one of the nice touches was that Kelner had invented a pop culture book about the fictional television show and included quotes from it at the start of every chapter. Kelner continues to do so in Who Killed The Pinup Queen, with the many of the chapters starting with a quote from the fictional Cowtown Companion and other chapters starting with pinup girl related quotes. My favorite quote was "You can't have a Western without pretty gals. Hell, look at Brokeback Mountain! Those cowboys didn't even like women and they gave 'em Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway." (p.177)
Kelner does a nice job of blending the two story lines together, and while I didn't figure out who the murderer was before the end of the story (I almost never do), Kelner does give the reader enough information that it can be done.
Given that the books are a contemporary mysteries revolving around popular culture, Tilda does a certain amount of her research on fan sites devoted to whatever or whoever is the subject of her articles, using the message boards to harness the power of the internet to get the information she needs. This is not unrealistic given the topics she researches.
Also, Tilda's interactions with her sister flow naturally and do not come across as infodumps. Tilda is close to her sister June. June is a mental health professional. Therefore, it is natural for Tilda to discuss her nightmare with her sister and given that her sister has to deal with patient confidentiality, to discuss with her the problem Tilda is having about what to do with information gathered off the record, since she takes keeping her sources confidential seriously.
To date, Kelner's Where Are They Now series has covered Westerns, pinup girls, and Brady Bunch style family sitcoms. She has a three book contract with Berkley Prime Crime (see http://tonikelner.wordpress.com), so I am looking forward to seeing where the series goes next. Given Kelner's fondness for cult TV shows and their fan bases, I'd love to see Tilda investigating a murder tied to a science fiction show like one of the many short-lived Gerry Anderson or Irwin Allen shows from the 1960s.
Who Killed The Pinup Queen? Is a fun little mystery and a quick read. While it was released this past January, I think it would make great poolside reading this summer. I'm looking forward to Tilda's future adventures and I hope the books sell well enough that Berkley will contract for more of them.