A Good Knife’s Work

The Lauren Atwill Mystery Series – Book 2

Sheila York combines glamour, humor, and the late 1940s in a clever and challenging mystery.

Carolyn Hart, author of Dare to Die

With pitch-perfect dialogue—when’s the last time you used the word ‘fink’?—and a lush and vivid sense of place and time—gotta love the glitter and glam and ethnic neighborhoods of Hollywood and New York in the ’40s—A Good Knife’s Work is a fast-paced page-turner of a mystery. I loved this book!

Jane K. Cleland, author of Silent Auction

Sheila York infuses this period background with sparkling dialog, memorable characters, and characteristic humor to produce a crackling mystery. Welcome back, Lauren Atwill.

John Billheimer, Edgar Award winning author

New York City
October 1946

The elevator doors opened and I stepped out. Ahead of me was a wall of glass and, beyond that, the point of no return.

I stood there for a moment, fake eyeglasses perching on my nose and a smart little blue hat nesting in my brunette-dyed hair. I swallowed and thought about the possibility that I was putting my life in danger again, this time for a woman I had known for all of two hours and twenty minutes.

Then I pushed open one of the glass doors and went in.

It wasn’t the sort of place where you’d expect a murder to have been committed: gleaming cherrywood paneling and thick, burnt umber carpeting; a sofa upholstered in syrupy gold; chairs, in muted copper. The floor lamps had saucer shades of frosted glass that breathed soft light onto the ceiling.

The woman behind the desk was past the age of most receptionists—by maybe half a century—with hair so densely black that it could not possibly have been natural. A roll of bangs stopped mid-forehead; the rest was parted down the center and folded back onto her neck, framing a leathery, square-jawed prune of a face. There wasn’t a quarter-inch of her skin that didn’t have a crease, seam, sag, bag, pouch, line or furrow.

“Can I help you, dear?” she croaked at me with a smoke-scarred, gravelly frog-groan of a voice. Not the voice of most receptionists.

“I’m here to see Mr. Benjamin. I have an appointment. Mrs. Tanner, “ I said, using my new fake name.

“I’ll tell him you’re here. Have a seat. Take the sofa. The chairs are bricks.” She turned to the PBX cabinet, picked up a headset and pressed the earpiece to her ear. She plucked a cord from the base and stuck it into the switchboard panel. She spoke into the headset’s horn.

As I slipped out of my coat, I tried to look like I was only mildly curious about my surroundings. Lithographs of the programs that were produced here lined the walls. For the “soap opera” Love Always, men and women in chaste romantic embraces. For the detective series Adam Drake, For Hire, one of the detective disarming a gunman and another of him holding the wrist of a beautiful woman, bringing the match in her hand up to his cigarette. Drake’s face was turned away, revealing a terrific profile.

Against the rear wall stood a Keane console radio of burled mahogany, one of the first, from back when radios were still the amusement of the rich and some, like this one, cost as much as a working man made in a year. In its base was the speaker, covered in gold shirred silk and surrounded by elaborate Chinese flowers of inlaid ivory. Above was a cabinet, open to reveal the same design on the inside of the door panels and the glass-covered frequency window and three dials that had been necessary fifteen years ago to tune in a station. The source of the Keane family wealth.

I sat down and pulled out my compact, to pretend to powder my nose while I examined my disguise. Then I noticed the L.A. engraved on its lid, for Lauren Atwill, my real name. I had forgotten about that. Some detective I was. I dropped the compact back into my bag.

Through the room’s long glass front wall, I could see both elevators and the service door beside them. These were the only means of escape the killer could have used. Somehow, he had figured out how to conceal himself inside the offices at the end of the workday so that no one had noticed. He had waited until his victim was alone, then committed a violent murder with four people not forty feet away, without raising any alarm.

But his plan of escape had depended on those four people deserting the reception area when the body was discovered, allowing him to bolt unseen.

It was a madman’s plan. And yet, it had worked.

Set in New York City in 1946, York’s snappy second Lauren Atwill puzzler (after 2003’s Star Struck Dead) will appeal to readers nostalgic for the golden age of radio. Lauren, a Hollywood screenwriter, and PI Peter Winslow, her gorgeous bodyguard and lover, flee California for New York, where they become involved in investigating the murder of Hazel Keane, the producer of Adam Drake, for Hire, a popular radio mystery series. Lauren goes undercover as a writer for the show under a pseudonym, while the victim’s insurance company hires Peter. They soon uncover a host of suspects, including Hazel’s estranged director husband, her lover, and her two brothers. Filled with fascinating details about old-time radio production, this crime caper is as much fun as a good game of Clue.

Publishers Weekly