Once upon a time, a secretary was pretty much standard equipment for fictional private eyes, as much a part of the package as a trenchcoat, a gun, and an office bottle. Any dick worth his salt also had a secretary, loyal and true, to filter out protective clients, type letters, make appointments and raise an eyebrow at the long-legged piece of trouble that just came waltzing in.
Sam Spade had Effie Perrine, Mike Hammer had his beloved Velda, Perry Mason had Della and even TV's Joe Mannix had Peggy. But these days, secretaries are few and far between; an almost forgotten trope of the P.I. genre
Fortunately, journalist and author Linda L. Richards remembers, and has done something about it. In 2008, she took a break from her popular Madeline Carter series about a crime solving stockbroker to give us Death Was the Other Woman, which introduced plucky, wise-cracking KITTY PANGBORN, long-suffering gal Friday to DEX THEROUX, a hard-drinking, hard-boiled, hard-luck shamus, who plies his trade in Depression-era Los Angeles.
But Richards didn't just bring the amanuensis back into the P.I. fold - she made Kitty the star of the show. That's right - Kitty is the one doing most of the deductive heavy lifting (and first person narration) here, while Dex boozes. It was a bold and audacious twist, and it resulted in a perfectly rendered period piece with a thoroughly modern feel, an instant classic that was both comfortably familiar and yet refreshingly new. And, it turns out, a very promising debut.
Because Kitty and Dex promptly returned in 2009 with Death Was in the Picture, with more promised.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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