Wednesday, February 03, 2021

The Sharpest Needle by Renee Patrick

First Line: While the specter of war casts its shadow over Europe, Hollywood keeps it sunny.
In August of 1939, Marion Davies should be focused on her upcoming lavish Saints & Sinners party, but she isn't. She's been the recipient of a series of poison pen letters which highlight an embarrassing event from her past. Reluctant to risk her long-term affair with William Randolph Hearst, Davies begs the discreet help of Lillian Frost and her friend, costume designer Edith Head, to uncover the identity of "Argus" before he can expose her.

Is this a prank, or is there something more sinister going on? It takes Lillian valuable time to get up to speed since Davies won't divulge the "embarrassing event." Once she starts putting the pieces together (with the aid of brilliant observations from the busy Head), Lillian finds herself in increasingly dangerous territory. It's a good thing she can think on her feet... and that she's a better actress than she was when she first came to Hollywood.


With occasional snippets from gossip columns, visits to "houses of beauty" catering to the elite, and descriptions of 1930s clothing, the writing team known as Renee Patrick (Rosemarie and Vince Keenan) plant readers so firmly into the soil of Hollywood that they can't help but try to catch glimpses of Clark Gable and Errol Flynn. The Keenans have a deep knowledge of Hollywood (you may have seen them on Turner Classic Movies), so even though you may have a phobia of writers using historical personages as characters, you might change your mind after reading The Sharpest Needle. I've enjoyed this series from the first book-- Design for Dying-- and I like the way the Keenans handle their historical characters: fun, light, and sticking as closely to the facts as possible.
As the personal assistant to a millionaire, Lillian Frost has the ability to take time off to investigate as long as she stays up-to-date with her work. Edith Head, as the head of Paramount Picture's insanely busy costume department, is mainly Lillian's friend and advisor who has a fierce intelligence, an eye for detail, and a wealth of contacts. Through Head, readers get to see what she had to put up with in order to become the best costume designer Hollywood has ever seen.
Through millionaire Addison Rice's contacts, Lillian Frost can be invited almost anywhere, and in this fourth book, she gets to wander Hearst Castle. As we see the grounds and learn of William Randolph Hearst's collecting habits, I was reminded of a scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was longing for a time machine so I could be transported back. Just turn me loose and let me explore, pretty please!
As good as the characters and the setting are, the mystery is every bit as good. There are many paths to follow before readers finally begin to learn what's really going on. If you enjoy multi-layered historical mysteries with strong characters and a fantastic sense of place, you can't go wrong with Renee Patrick's Lillian Frost & Edith Head series. You can jump right in with The Sharpest Needle, but don't be surprised if you find yourself looking for the other three. They're quite addictive! 

The Sharpest Needle by Renee Patrick
eISBN: 9781448304745
Severn House Publishers © 2021
eBook, 240 pages

Historical Mystery, #4 Lillian Frost & Edith Head mystery
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley


  1. I like the setting and am curious about the other books as well!

    1. They do an excellent job of putting readers in the time and place without going overboard, and the stories are good, too.


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