The Kept Girl
Kim Cooper’s The Kept Girl is based on the 1920s Los Angeles Blackburn cult, an odd group that scandalized L.A. with animal sacrifices and attempts to resurrect a dead teenager. Led by May Otis Blackburn, several disappearances were blamed on the group, but it was a grand theft charge in 1929 that brought the group down and sent Blackburn to prison. And it is the same event that provides the impetus for Cooper’s story.
Clifford Dabney, nephew of L.A. businessman Joseph Dabney, loses $40,000 to the cult, and Dabney turns to his accountant Raymond Chandler to retrieve the funds. Chandler turns to his secretary Muriel and policeman Tom James to help him investigate the cult and retrieve the Dabney money.
No one can fault Cooper for her background knowledge of the players or the period. After all, she runs a successful L.A. tour company with her husband. And the Blackburn cult offers fertile terrain for any novelist. The multiple viewpoints can leave the reader confused, and the period jargon is awfully heavy at times. Chandler emerges as a rather weak-willed, poor investigator, and perhaps rightly so. The real work is done by Muriel and Tom, who seems a kind of cardboard cut-out. Indeed, the most fully-realized character in the entire work is Muriel, although she pines for the pusillanimous Chandler. Readers who love the time and the place, however, will probably revel in The Kept Girl.