Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Viv and Charlie Mystery, Book One - The Darkness Knows

"Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man? The Shadow knows!" This catch phrase from the Shadow radio serials is pretty much commonly known, and quite frankly, it's what attracted me to the book. The title is clearly a play on the words, and the fact that it is set in 1930s Chicago and centers around a radio starlet sold me (well, honestly, it actually took a couple of months before I bought it, but I did pick it up pretty much every time I went into Barnes and Noble).

The Darkness Knows is Cheryl Honigford's first novel, but she definitely hits the ground running with this tale. The protagonist, Vivian Witchell, is a former secretary turned up-and-coming radio star who may finally be getting her big break on the detective drama, "The Darkness Knows."  Life is great, as she may also have finally caught the eye of her co-star, the gorgeous actor, Graham Yarborough. But, as with any good mystery, fate has other plans.

When Vivian overhears a has-been actress arguing with an unknown man, she doesn't really think much of it.  After all, Marjorie Fox may think she is still the big star of radio dramas, but in reality, everyone knows she is little more than a washed up drunk.  Why the station's owner, Mr. Hart (and yes, the name made me think of 9 to 5 as well), keeps her around is anyone's guess. But that was none of Vivian's concern.  At least, not until she comes back to the station late that night to pick up the umbrella she left behind and stumbles across Marjorie's body in the radio's lounge.

Who killed Marjorie Fox? That is suddenly the question everyone is asking, and Honigford writes a wonderful murder mystery that is filled with suspects. No one liked Marjorie Fox, and it seems no one feels bad that she is gone.  There are plenty of people who had motive and opportunity - but the strange note found next to Marjorie's body indicates that Vivian could very well be the next victim.  Enter: Charlie Haverman - a private detective hired as a consultant for "The Darkness Knows" radio show who now is being assigned to protect Vivian from the potential threat.

But is Vivian really in danger?  Honigford does a great job of keeping the reader guessing on that point, and it seems just when you think you have it figured out, she throws you a curve ball and leads you in a completely different direction. Now, I will say that I did guess the killer pretty early on, but that's not because the author makes it obvious - I think it's simply because all my years of reading mysteries and watching television mystery shows has taught me how to pick out a killer from a cast of suspects. However, that did not stop me from enjoying the book at all - instead, it left me thrilled at the end that I was able to solve the crime right along with Vivian and Charlie (and while I did guess the killer's identity, I did not have the motive right at all).

Honigford provides two very interesting characters in Vivian and Charlie.  Vivian is headstrong and determined, does not want to fall back on her family's wealth, and when she wants something, she will do what she needs to in order to get it (to a degree).  Charlie, on the other hand, is a man's man, a product of his time who is very protective of the females around him and who has trouble coping with a woman who won't just let him tell her what to do; yet, at the same time, he finds himself attracted to Vivian's stubborn nature, and yes, the two definitely have the whole sexual tension thing going on that every male/female detective duo seems to have.

There are also plenty of supporting characters who ground the story and bring Vivian and Charlie's world to life - Vivian's best friend and fellow secretary, Imogene ("Genie"); the elevator operator, Angelo; the owner's daughter and station gopher, Peggy; the station's electronic whiz, Morty; Vivian's arch-nemesis, Frances; Vivian's mother; fellow voice actors; and so many others that flesh out this tale of 1930s radio and give the reader a sense of reality.  It will be interesting to see how many of them carry over into the next mystery.

Overall, an excellent read and another great adult mystery series to add to my collection.

RATING:  10 cowhide chaps and matching vests out of 10 for showing readers just want kind of evil really does lurk in the hearts of men!

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