Dear Constant Reader,
Time for another book review. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read this particular book.
The G-String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee (1941).
Although she’s better known for her memoir, this was Gypsy’s first literary offering. From the beginning there was controversy about whether she penned it herself or it was the work of a ghostwriter. I’m going to ignore all that and just review the story.
The tale is set backstage at a fictional burlesque show as told by one Gypsy Rose Lee, a fictional character, of course. The show is populated by squabbling strippers, ambitious chorus dancers, mysterious stagehands, and a variety of comics. Right off things get exciting when the show is raided and someone tries to strangle Gypsy as she flees the cops. Soon after, a haughty “Russian” “princess” joins the show and tensions grow even greater. Things finally come to a head at a party to dedicate the new toilet in the principal dancers’ dressing room. The new fixture is unveiled as well as the body of the much-disliked Prima Donna, strangled with a g-string. And she won’t be the last victim.
There are so many motives swirling around — missing stock certificates, cheating lovers, gangsters, blackmail — that anyone could be the murderer.
As mysteries go (and I read a *lot* of mysteries), it’s not fabulous. As a look backstage at a burlesque show, it’s amazing. The details are wonderful: the language, the daily routine, off-stage antics, beauty tips, &c. In general, it’s a fun read.
I was awfully disappointed in the ending where Gypsy’s boyfriend, Biff, sweeps in, saves her, and solves the crimes. She’s rightfully annoyed at him for using her as bait and then claiming all the credit. Then he proposes to her. And instead of showing the spunk she’s demonstrated for the entire book, she just melts into a puddle of romantic goo. That may have been wish fulfillment on the part of the actual Gypsy, but it’s out of character for the fictional Gypsy. I was kind of hoping she’d kick him in the shins.
The edition I have ends with an afterword by Rachel Shteir and selections from “Letters to My Editor”, a publicity pamphlet for The G-String Murders, containing letters between Gypsy and her editor, Lee Wright, about the progress of the novel.
Now I’m going to look for a copy of Mother Finds a Body, the sequel, which was no where near as popular. Also, I think I’ll rewatch Lady of Burlesque and see what kind of amazing liberties Hollywood took with the story.