Book Review: The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda QuickThe Girl Who Knew Too Much

Amanda Quick

9780399174476, $27, Penguin, Pub. Date: May 9, 2017

Genres: Adult fiction, mystery, romance

Short blurb: The glitz and glamor of 1930s Hollywood. A secretary-turned-reporter with a new identity, hot on the trail of a murderer. An ex-magician with secrets of his own to hide. An updated feel to the classic film noir, femme-fatale genre, this whodunnit by a NY Times bestselling author will surprise you!

Synopsis: Jayne Anne Krentz is the NY Times bestselling author who also writes under two other pen names: Jayne Castle, for futuristic paranormal romance, and Amanda Quick, for historical romance.

Previous romances have focused on Victorian England, but in The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Amanda Quick takes us to 1930s California. Amidst the glitz and glamour, women are ending up dead – drowned – and secretary-turned reporter, Anna Harris, aka Irene Glasson, is going to get the full story. It’s not simply a scoop she’s after; she’s looking for answers to her own secrets. 

Four months before Anna arrived in L.A., her previous employer, socialite Helen Spencer, was brutally murdered. Helen’s final act was writing the word, RUN, in her own blood on the wall for Anna to find. Working as Helen’s secretary for several months, Anna respected her employer’s request for privacy, but she wishes she had asked more questions when Anna finds a small notebook and a large amount of cash with a note telling her to trust no one, not even the FBI, hidden in her closet. Clearly left for her by Helen in case of her untimely demise, Anna decides to take Helen’s advice. Packing one bag into her prized Packard, another gift from Helen, Anna sets off into the night.

Having assumed a new identity as Irene Glasson, with a new job as a reporter for the LA gossip rag, Whispers, Irene makes her way to Burning Cove Hotel to have a midnight meeting with movie star, Gloria Maitland. When Gloria is found dead in the hotel pool, Anna encounters the hotel’s owner, Oliver Ward. Previously a famous magician, Oliver now works behind the scenes at his exclusive hotel (which doesn’t allow reporters), staying out of the limelight ever since a botched magic trick damaged his leg and ended his career. With their interests temporarily aligned – they both want to find out who killed Gloria and why – Oliver and Irene form an uneasy partnership. Oliver helps Irene with his Burning Cove contacts (a town mostly run by celebrity-owned police), while Irene brings her insatiable curiosity and her secrets that may have an impact on this case. Learning to trust each other reveals more and more personal secrets from both Oliver and Irene, just in time to realize that the person breaking into Irene’s apartment and trying to track her down may not be from the Gloria murder but from the Helen one.
With the bodies piling up, Irene and Oliver need to work together to keep themselves from joining the pile. The whodunnit may surprise you! 

Personal notes: While I enjoyed this read because it was quick and painless, it was also formulaic. What I like about Amanda Quick’s other novels have been her time-period details and the juxtaposition the modern-woman sensibility of her female characters in a world decidedly un-modern. While that part of Quick’s female personalities was still there in Irene, the rest of the story felt stale and the details of 1930s Hollywood were light on the specifics. I was more interested in hearing Oliver’s tale, or Willie the bartender (“a woman passing as a very attractive man”), or the mob boss-turned nightclub owner, Luther Pell than in Irene. Irene herself felt one-dimensional, despite the independent spirit and occasional mention of a grandfather having raised her (Why? Tell us more about her childhood and why her grandfather’s lessons were so important!). We hear about a former relationship having gone wrong, those vague mentions of her grandfather, and one mention of her secretarial school (which seemed to also teach backbone – why? Was it a spy school? Intriguing but went nowhere), but the dots don’t seem to connect to make up a meaningful character. Instead, those details sounded more like filler, making conversation at a cocktail party, than character building. 

Lastly – {SPOILER ALERT} – the whodunnit character was confusing. Other than used as a complete bait-and-switch, there was no reason to make Claudia’s character so rabbit-frightened all the time, especially when she was with Nick. If she was really this murderous lunatic with a history as an actress (including an adult film or two under her belt), where was THAT part of her character with someone who had clearly known her a very long time? There would have been no need for her to act that part with him. Though I loved that the murderer was a murderess – both of them were! The secretary murdering Graham Enright was brilliant! – that character didn’t hold up for me after the great reveal. In truth, I expected more (better) from such an established author.

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