After reading The Little Red Chairs, I needed something lighter. Cheryl Honigford’s The Darkness Knows, thankfully, delivered. This series debut is set just before World War II in the Chicago studios of WCHI. Vivian Witchell is on the lower rungs of the radio star ladder, but she’s just landed her first regular role in the series The Darkness Knows playing a detective’s sidekick. Viv has been on the show for about a week before she lands smack in the middle of a real murder mystery. Viv has all the pluck and gumption of a vintage screwball heroine, making this book a cracking read.
After Viv discovers Marjorie Fox—the lead in a long-running and popular soap opera series—dead in the staff lounge and is named in a threatening letter, Charlie Haverman is assigned to protect her. Charlie is a private detective who consults for The Darkness Knows (though he later reveals that he cribs heavily from Black Mask because real detective work isn’t exciting enough for radio). Viv is terrified to be the possible target of a deranged fan, but not too terrified to insist on finding out who killed Marjorie. She metaphorically puts the screws on Charlie to help.
The mystery plot is twisty enough to satisfy, but I loved the setting of The Darkness Knows. The WCHI studios are packed with great characters. The rapacious Frances who wants to steal Viv’s role and her doofus of a co-star who has delusions of being a playbook are particularly good. I had a good time reading this book; it was a great antidote to the heaviness of The Little Red Chairs.