Death on a Deadline (A Homefront News Mystery)
This ‘Homefront News Mystery’ is set in the small Midwestern town of Progress in 1942. Everyone in town is excited about the upcoming fair being held to support the drive to sell war bonds. Many of the men of the town have left for war service, leaving the women to replace them in roles they might otherwise not aspire to. Irene Ingram is replacing her father as editor-in-chief of the Progress Herald and is on the planning committee of the war bond drive to be held at the upcoming fair.
Assorted B-list Hollywood characters attend the fair to promote the sale of war bonds; it’s part of their war effort. One of them, the disliked actor Freddie Harrison, is found dead on the fairground. Irene and the police chief (her future father-in-law) work to discover the killer, struggling through a maze of local characters, minor Hollywood figures, and the wannabes in between.
It is this plethora of characters that weakens the novel, especially as some have a stage name in addition to the name given them at birth. That said, the writing and the characters are true to the time and place, the dialog is vivid, and the plot is satisfyingly complex. To add immediacy, each chapter starts with a brief news headline from the wartime news headlines of the day.