Made Up To Kill by Kelley Roos (1940)

Opening night of the production “Green Apples”, and Haila Rogers is set play a supporting roll, her roommate Carol Blanton was set to play the ingénue lead, but has suddenly come down with laryngitis and won’t be able to go on. Alice MacDonald, her “fanatically ambitious” understudy, “has no gifts to offer the theater” is thrilled, but Carol’s mysterious recovery allows her to go on. By the end of the show it is clear that Carol is the breakout star. But her first ever performance on the Broadway stage is also nearly her last. Carol collapses after the performance and is rushed to the hospital. It seems she was poisoned while onstage. 

Even in the face of a potential murder attempt, Carol is determined to continue with the show. But during the next performance the murderer strikes again. Onstage in the second act, Haila opens a door, at her feet is the lifeless body of Eve North, aging star of the play, wearing Carol’s cloak. 

Considering my last foray into the adventures of Mr. and Mrs. North, I was a little leery to take on another series by a husband and wife writing team. But after reading reviews of several other Kelley Roos books by my fellow bloggers (Kate @ crossexamingingcrime, JJ @ The Invisible Event, Ben @ The Green Capsuleto name just a few), I decided to dive in.

Made Up to Kill is the debut of the Jeff and Haila Troy series by Kelley Roos (husband and wife team, Audrey Kelley & William Roos), and it’s a good one. It’s not only a very good puzzle, but a fun romp, very reminiscent of the Hollywood comic mysteries of the 1930’s & 40’s. Haila is the narrator and Jeff Troy (Jeff and Haila are not yet married) the investigator. Jeff has been given a forced vacation. Once the murder occurs he decides he wants to be a detective and convinces the shows producer, Clint Bowers, to hire to solve the murder (plus it will bankroll the wedding). He races around New York City chasing down leads and questioning the suspects, with Haila barely keeping up. 

The plot is a nice of balance of comedy and seriousness. The dialogue is smart and riddled with wry wit. There is a diverse cast of suspects, none of whom seem to have a motive or the opportunity, but all acting strangely enough to keep you guessing. There is at least one facet of the story that I didn’t figure out ahead of time, and the culprit was a total surprise to me.

Not a heavy-weight mystery, but an entertaining read nonetheless. 

My Judgement – 4/5

Prior Rulings – Bev @ My Reader’s Block

2 thoughts on “Made Up To Kill by Kelley Roos (1940)

  1. The first few Roos novels get stronger as they go — this is good, Shroud Fits is better, Frightened Stiff is magnificent — and the fourth book Sailor, Take Warning! is a but of a dip but still a very strong book…man, I do so wish Rue Morgue hadn’t sunk and so had been able to continue reprinting these. Jeff and Haila are great company, surely it’s only a matter of time before the BL or Dean Street or someone has the good sense to put us out of our misery and bring them back again…

    1. I was so unhappy when Rue Morgue went away. I believe it was through them that I began reading vintage mystery (I fell in love with the Little’s Black series). Maybe someone should give Martin and/or DSP a prod in the right direction…

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