S.K. Golden: The Socialites Guide to Murder

This charming, frothy concoction is as charming and frothy as it’s heroine, Evelyn Elizabeth Grace Murphy, daughter of the owner of New York City’s Pinnacle Hotel.  She lives in the penthouse, and she never leaves the building – there’s no need!  She has a social life, friends, food delivery, even a dog walker.  It’s 1958 and she loves to dress like her favorite movie star, Marilyn Monroe.  Her fluffy white dog – she carries him around in her purse – is named Presley.  As the story opens there’s a big art exhibition opening, and Evelyn is on the arm of movie star(let) Henry Fox.  She’s dressed to the nines, in a replica of Marilyn’s pink dress in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. 

Things go all to heck when the big reveal of the artist’s masterpiece proves to be an empty frame, the painting somehow having been stolen during the fancy soiree. Things really fall apart when the painter is found murdered in the hotel a day or two later.  Evelyn, who wears a St. Anthony medal around her neck and is indeed skilled at finding lost things, wants to figure out where the lost painting has gone and who has killed the painter.

She’s helped in her search by her friend Mac, who is skilled at picking locks and who walks her dog for her twice a day.  He’s a bellman at the hotel but he’s much more than that to Evelyn.  Henry, who uses her as a front, is not really her boyfriend, and it’s obvious it’s Mac who’s going for the title.  The two have a nice back and forth banter, with Mac providing some real-world practicality to balance out Evelyn’s sheltered rich girl perspective.

This historical cozy shades in Evelyn’s character in deepening colors as the book proceeds.  She’s tasked with finding a lost little girl (a task that brings up memories of her hotel childhood) and it becomes apparent, as she is the one to find the body, that there’s another, more traumatic and more personal body in her past.  It’s led to her not wanting to ever leave her safe place, i.e., the hotel.  When she thinks about it, she realizes she hasn’t left the Pinnacle in over a year.

Golden provides the reader with a tight but varied circle of suspects, including hotel employees, the artist’s assistant, a count and countess, and, it turns out, Henry himself.  Evelyn is sure of Henry’s innocence though Mac is not.  Mac himself is fired and only allowed back on hotel property when in the company of Evelyn.  Within this tight circle of suspects, the author also provides the reader with a very nicely done traditional mystery novel, complete with a summing up by the detective (that would be Evelyn) at the end.

The historical details are light except for the details of Evelyn’s clothes, so this book comes down on the cozy side of things.  It’s a smart, well-done cozy with a really interesting main character that I guarantee you will want to get to know better.  I loved Evelyn, I loved her dog, and I enjoyed her relationship with both Mac and Henry.  This is a wonderful series launch, filled with a delightful amount of sparkle.