Friday’s Forgotten Book: Now I Lay Me Down to Die (1955) by Elizabeth Tebbetts-Taylor

Source: Review Copy (Coachwhip Publications)

Today’s FFB takes place in 1950s Los Angeles when murder strikes at Mira Hira’s Exclusive Gowns boutique. The victim is actress Floren Lawrence, who has arrived for a fitting, though of course she drags this process out as long as possible by first having a drinking session with her manager and new admirer, before insisting on a nap, locking the door to the tower fitting room from the inside. When it is time to rouse her from her beauty sleep, Mira naturally finds her dead, poisoned with morphine. In and amongst this drama Mira is also dealing with a tricky divorce, in that her husband, Ian, doesn’t want them to split, despite having had an affair with the murder victim months earlier. This provides an initial motive for murder, but with Floren there is plenty more where that came from, including her loud hints that she knows something incriminating about someone. Yet the story does not rest there, as events soon move to an evening party the next day, which culminates in further murder. But again Tebbetts-Taylor is not finished, with several further bodies adding to the story’s pile of corpses. Alongside the various police investigators we also have private eye, Joseph Pratt Miles, who is of Nez Perce Indian descent.

Overall Thoughts

Unlike my last read this book runs at a fast and action packed pace, with an exceptionally high body count for a 158 paged story. Although it contains police detectives, the case is pretty much orchestrated by Joseph and in the main this story fits the thriller mode more. I wouldn’t say this is the most tightly plotted of books, but I think Tebbetts-Taylor gets away with it quite well, as she knows how to tell an entertaining yarn. Again unlike my last read the characters in this book felt very much alive and quickly engage your attention and sympathies. Joseph is a strong sleuthing lead and an underlying theme running through the book is how other characters respond to his Native American origins, with some parts of the narrative acknowledging how certain terminology is demeaning and inappropriate. In some ways Joseph reminds me of Juanita Sheridan’s Lily Wu, as both sleuths gain advantages by allowing others to make incorrect assumptions about them based on race. Although the plot is not the tightest, the author does unfurl a very successful red herring in the final quarter of the book, which certainly had me fooled and the final solution is emotionally charged, re-writing a number of established character relationships. So all in all I would say this is an enjoyable easy fun read.

Rating: 4/5

Just the Facts Ma’am (Silver Card): An Author You’ve Never Tried Before

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