Brendan's Reviews > The G-String Murders

The G-String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee
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Nov 19, 11

bookshelves: 2011, adventure-thriller, book-club, classics, fiction, mystery, theatre
Read from November 10 to 19, 2011

The provocative title of this burlesque novel is, I’m afraid, its most provocative part. Given that it was written in the 1940s, I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised. The G-String Murders follows the adventures of Gypsy Rose Lee, writing about herself, imagining a fictional string of murders in the burlesque house where she does her shows. The novel’s title refers to the article of clothing used to strangle the two strip-tease artists murdered in the course of the novel. A few thoughts:

In my mystery group, there was a fairly heated discussion about whether or not Craig Rice, another more established crime writer, actually wrote this novel, or if she consulted on it. Wikipedia says she mostly consulted. Either way, the authentic aspects of the burlesque theatre and its actors’ lives makes the novel work well, and provides solid evidence that Lee was heavily involved.
As far as mysteries go, this novel isn’t much to thrill about. The end is pretty convoluted, and it felt like the author could have introduced any number of tiny facts at the end to explain the circumstances so that any of the suspects could have been the murderer.
I also had trouble getting all that excited about the murder mystery aspect, perhaps because our narrator is mostly a bystander in the murder investigation: she’s there during the murders and the investigation, but she isn’t the detective, nor does she want to be. When the agent solving the crime isn’t the main character (nor is the main character involved at all, really) the story ceases to be a murder mystery in a lot of ways.
The novel’s most positive aspect is its dialogue, which sings with with and humor, as well as giving a solid sense of how these ladies felt and interacted with one another.
One member of our book group commented that this book works nicely for burlesque the same way The Sopranos worked for the mafia, as a way of reminding us that these stereotyped people working at a job not respected or understood by many were actually people with strong feelings and hopes for their lives. The lovely romance that develop between Alice and Mike, for instance, is pretty heartwarming.

It’s an okay novel, but ultimately I didn’t like it very much. Not recommended unless you’re really interested in the burlesque culture.
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