Chicago, 1938. Late one night before the ten o’clock show, the body of a prominent radio actress is found dead in the station’s lounge. All the evidence points to murder…and one young, up-and-coming radio actress, Vivian Witchell, as the next victim. But Viv isn’t the type to leave her fate in the hands of others—she’s used to stealing the show. Alongside charming private detective Charlie Haverman, Vivian is thrust into a world of clues and motives, suspects and secrets. And with so much on the line, Viv finds her detective work doesn’t end when the “On-Air” lights go out…
The gripping first novel in a new series from debut author Cheryl Honigford, The Darkness Knows is a thrilling mystery that evokes the drama and scandal of radio stardom in prewar Chicago.
Born and raised in Ohio, Cheryl Honigford has been writing stories since she could read (and telling stories even before that). She received her BA in Journalism, with a minor in English, from The Ohio State University.
She is the author of The Viv and Charlie Mystery series which includes The Darkness Knows (2016), Homicide for the Holidays (October 10, 2017), and Dig Deep My Grave (August 2018).
Cheryl lives with her family in the suburbs of Chicago.
Set in Chicago in 1938, this mystery has a fun setting – most of the novel taking place in a radio station. Vivian Witchell was the secretary to Head of the station, Mr Hart, before becoming a radio actress. Now she is on the popular show, “The Darkness Knows,” while also taking any other work that comes her way. Although her widowed mother is extremely wealthy, Vivian’s independence, and career, is important to her.
One evening, Vivian returns to the lounge, where the actors relax between shows, and discovers the body of Marjorie Fox – the star of the station. Marjorie is not well liked, but surely nobody hates her enough to kill her? When a note is found by her body, it points towards a deranged fan and, what is more, Vivian’s radio character is mentioned in the letter… Afraid that Vivian will be the next victim, Charlie Haverman, a real Private Investigator (and consultant on, “The Darkness Knows”), is given the task of protecting Vivian. Determined not to be a victim, Vivian and Charlie begin to investigate the crime.
This is a fairly standard, cozy mystery. I liked the character of Vivian and the setting of the pre-war radio era. If you enjoy gentle mysteries, without too much violence and a historical setting, you may well enjoy this. It has the potential to become a series and I would certainly be interested to read on. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley.
Light-reading mystery with a great 1930s era setting at a Chicago radio station. This was a fun book to read with a different atmosphere than what's available on the market today.
Vivian is a wealthy young woman with ambitions to rise through the radio ranks and also to get noticed by her famous co-star, Graham. She hits a bump when she finds another troubled co-star dead. Gasp! Unfortunately her life becomes threatened as well and things escalate. Will PI-turned-bodyguard Charlie keep her safe from harms way? Will they figure out who the killer is together? Enjoy the drama and allure of radio in the late '30s in this gem.
**Many thanks to NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS Landmark for an ARC!**
As I write this blog post I am listening to the Old Time Radio program, Let George Do It. I started listening to old time radio since high school - when my insomnia would keep me up late listening to the radio. On an AM station every so often they would play a few old radio programs - from the 1930s-1960s. One of favourite parts in the program is listening to the radio ads from that time. No wonder people were smoking in that time - smooth flavourable cigarettes sounds pretty dandy. I like listening to sitcoms, dramas and theater but mystery and suspense are my absolute favourites. I cannot even begin to list the shows I love. I enjoy that period of the "Golden Age" so when I saw the synopsis for Cheryl Honigford's debut novel, The Darkness Know I added it to my TBR. Sourcebooks was extremely kind to send me a physical advance copy to read and review!
THE DARKNESS KNOWS (Viv and Charlie Mystery: #1) Written by Cheryl Honigford 2016; Sourcebooks Landmark (320 Pages) Genre: series, fiction, mystery, historical mystery, old time radio, golden age
In Chicago, 1938 Vivian Witchell has landed the plum part of Lorna Lafferty in a detective radio series. Graham Yarborough, the debonair actor, plays the lead of Harvey Diamond, PI. If she can prove herself in this role and other small roles she just may have a chance in Radio. One night as Vivian heads back to the station to grab an umbrella she comes upon the body of a prominent radio actress, Marjorie Fox. The only problem is that everyone disliked Marjorie so the suspect pool is plentiful. In a letter found by Marjorie's body it indicates that Lorna Lafferty might be the next victim. Fearing for her life, but not willing to give up her roles to her arch nemesis, the station hires it's consulting PI, Charlie Haverman, as her bodyguard. As Charlie tries to discover the identity behind the letter and murder, Vivian inserts herself as his gal Friday. Can Charlie find the killer before Vivian makes herself an open target?
This is Cheryl Honigford's debut novel so I had fair expectations going into the book. I have higher expectations when it about a subject I am passionate about. I was trying to tell myself it's okay if this novel doesn't quite meet up to expectations...page one I was hooked. Honigford actually seems genuinely a fan of that era and golden age radio. Vivian, a woman looking for her independence and a bit of fame, is a great character. She reminds me a bit of the character Brooksie in Let George Do it. Brooksie might be the "sidekick" character, but she is the tough one that holds the hero up and keeps the story flowing. Though in this book Vivian is the main character and we see everything through her voice, and Charlie is the glue that keeps them going. Vivian can be rash where Charlie is reason. The two mix very well with chemistry and characters working well with one another. I loved the secondary characters around them, but at times felt they were a bit kitschy. Honestly, that would be my only "flaw" with this book if it really is one. It never hindered my enjoyment of the book at all. I loved the characters, enjoyed most of the story and am very hooked on where Viv and Charlie go in the future. I do kind of wish that Viv was more of a "working-class" character BUT her being from a wealthy family is also intriguing. I do think Mrs. Witchell is a blast! I would recommend this novel to fans of historical mystery, cozy mysteries, historical fiction of the 30s and anyone looking to know more about Old Time Radio! Book two won't be out till next Fall next year, so I am a bit disappointed with the wait...as if I have no other books to keep me occupied.
Vivian Witchell is a young woman whose star is on the rise at the Chicago radio station where she works. She's made the successful jump from the secretarial pool into bit parts on several radio serials and she's highly motivated to be as successful as she can be in her chosen career, much to the chagrin of her socialite mother. But when a well known actress is murdered in the station's employee lounge and the letter found on the body indicates that Vivian may be next, career ambitions have to take a back seat to just staying alive. That task is made easier when the station's owner hires P.I. Charlie Haverman to serve as a de facto bodyguard.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable debut effort for this author. It was a fun and engaging story set during the heyday of radio drama in America, barely a year before the start of WW2. So fun and engaging, in fact, that it inspired me to go searching for actual old radio dramas and, lo and behold, the internet delivered. Now I'm torn between finishing the audiobook I'm currently listening to or abandoning it in favor of listening to some old radio episodes.
Vivian and Charlie had a good dynamic and I'm on board for seeing what adventures lie in store for them. While I did at times find Vivian leaning a bit too far towards vanity and self-absorption, the author would generally snap her back just in time with a bit of well timed insight. The mystery wasn't the strongest; I correctly guessed at the secrets behind the murders if not the identity of the murderer, but that's okay given this is a first effort for this author. The characters, the period setting, and the overall flavor are all there for this to become a bang up series.
I would like to give this a 3.75 or perhaps a 3.80 if Good Reads allowed it. It's a very good read and I really liked it, but I have quibbles.
First off, without even knowing this book had a "A Viv and..." book (the digital ARC I have courtesy of Edelweiss doesn't show the cover art,) I immediately knew whom the romantic lead would be the minute he came into the story. I also quickly knew that the more apparent romantic lead would NOT be the hero, and I've got a pretty good idea about what's going on with him, though Honigford is leaving that for another story.
And while I didn't guess THE actual criminal, I knew that he/she had to be in the story for a specific reason, and I was on the right track of the motive by the middle of the book.
But I don't read mysteries just for the mystery, and Honigford does a very good job of portraying late 30s Chicago and the Golden Age of Radio. She also creates a pretty good set of characters. There are moments when Viv strains credulity, but overall she's a winning heroine, the hero has potential, and side characters like Viv's obligatory wise cracking best friend and her snobby mother add to the fun. I'm betting that Honigford will polish her craft in books to come, and I'll look forward to book 2.
Sometimes an author's recurring characters (in a series) are so charming and likeable the reader easily forgives so-so writing. But Viv and Charlie's debut as romantically-linked sleuths in pre-war Chicago is my first-- and last stop-- with this series. Rarely has a lead character been conceived as shallow, annoying and self-centered as Vivian, a privileged (in looks and family wealth) young woman who has traded her steno pad for acting scripts at the radio station that employs her. Here's what you need to know about her: when she visits a foundling home for orphaned kids and learns several celebrities had adopted such children, Viv ponders whether she too will engage in such an act of public service when she becomes famous. That's what helping these unfortunate kids hinges on? Her becoming famous? And when Vivian is a passenger in a car whose route is through a derelict side of town, she fairly cringes at the sight of broken men in the street. She says something like this is not the Chicago she knows. Well, honey, it's 1938, knock, knock the Depression.
I really loved this book. I was saving it until I finished my own Chicago-set book A Lesson in Love and Murder and it was the best post-deadline read.
First off, Honigford builds an effortlessly beautiful historical world: from the bridges criss-crossing the river to the broad, lit billboards, to the ins and outs of radio: the airwaves ruled the entertainment of the day and Viv's world is very much coloured within a studio!
This had a light, cozy feel to it: written with the tang of 1930's slang and the raucous optimism and fun of pre-War America. I loved that she never talked down to the reader: assuming that any little idioms, slang or personages of the time would be recognized by the reader. It helped create the sense that you were dropped right into Vivian and Charlie's world.
I also really liked the believable banter, chemistry and romantic hints between Charlie and Vivian (even though there's an Errol Flynn/Robert Taylor lookalike named Graham smooth-talking his way around the edges). Charlie is an ace private eye with a heart and an Archie Goodwin sense of humour that made me want to spirit him off for a night at the Flamingo Club.
An easy book to sink into with a great, winking sense of humour, a glistening old school Chicago of lights and liquor and fun and a hard-to-guess murder mystery.
I am EAGER to follow Viv and Charlie on their next adventure.
I don not normally release a review before the book is published, but I have had number requests for my review PUBLICATION DATE is August 1st, 2016
This historical book about radio beginning days caught my eye as I grew up listening to radio. Reading this first-time author, I found mystery, romance, jealousy, dirty tricks, suspense, and a thriller with many surprises. Characters with which you identified at once. Vivian Witchell is determined to be a star. She is just beginning her career. She stumbles upon the murdered body of the station star actress. A letter found with the body indicates that the actress is playing is next. The station hires a bodyguard for her. They begin to look into the mystery. Give yourself plenty of time to read as you want to. Put the book down. The book brought memories of my favorite radio shows. I found the stars mention accurate and the Chicago I know. I am ready to read more about Vivian and friends.
Disclosure: I received a free copy from Sourcebooks Landmark through NetGalley for an honest review. I would like to thank them for this opportunity to read and review the book. The opinions are my own.
3.5 stars I enjoyed this introductory novel into the Viv and Charlie mystery series. The setting of a 1930's radio station in Chicago, complete with radio actors/actresses was atmospheric and I was transported to that time and place. The characters were a little bit cliche for the behind-the-scenes goings on of a radio (or in more modern times, television) show. The aging, diva actress that no one likes, the suave actor trying to make and keep himself relevant, the sweet and innocent newbie (Viv), the guy behind the scenes with the crush, the over protective private eye (Charlie) etc. However, the setting was so fun that I didn't mind the stereotypical characters. The whodunit aspect itself was light and fun although thinly veiled and I enjoyed getting to know Vivian and Charlie. I would read the next one in the series and recommend to those that enjoy a light historical mystery.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
It’s 1938 in Chicago, and Vivian works at a radio station. After a couple of years as a secretary, she is finally cast as a radio actress in a drama. But all too soon, life mimics art, and Vivian finds herself enmeshed in a real murder mystery. The station’s boss hires a private detective to protect Vivian, but she wants to find the killer. Vivian works well with Charlie, the private eye, and the inevitable attraction develops. Well-developed characters in an equally intersting plot coupled with the setting makes for an enjoyable read. Great start to a new series.
I really wanted to like this book. The premise was an engaging one, and the main character, intended to be a spunky, independent woman, raised my hopes for the book. Alas, it was all downhill from there. The plot was weird and implausible, even for a "quirky" mystery, and one could not believe the story as it unfolded.
The characters were one-dimensional and their actions completely inconsistent. As just one example, Viv and Charlie (and others) repeatedly point out the Charlie will stay with her and protect her no matter what. Then he disappears over and over without explanation. Throughout the book, readers are left to wonder how an ostensibly bright individual (we're supposed to believe that Viv is such a person) would repose any faith in him. And when the explanation finally emerges at the end of the book, all one can say is "huh?"
Another example is Viv's incomprehensible "relationship" with Graham. He is written as a transparently self-centered cad with no apparent redeeming qualities, but we're supposed to believe that somehow Viv would be taken in. Such inconsistent behavior abounds, making all the characters hard to believe or to care about.
Then there's the writing itself. By the time I'd reached the sixth or seventh time a character "smirked" (I'm not certain the author knows what the word means), I wanted to throw the book across the room. But by that point, I kept going primarily to see if there was any way the author could dig herself--and the characters--out. The short answer is no.
It is possible that with the help of a really good editor who's willing to be brutally frank about the writing, plot, and characters, this could be molded into a decent series. But there's no evidence in book #1 that such a person is involved. I was eager to find a new series with a clever premise and an interesting period setting (both of which are present here). This is not that series.
Set in 1938 Chicago, this is a fun, cozy mystery about Vivian, a young woman who is starting to rise in the ranks of radio stardom. Having started as a secretary in a radio station, she now plays bit parts and some major ones in famous radio programs.
Viv is a very ambitious woman, and by working, and even more by wanting to be a radio actress, she has gone against the wishes of her rich and well bred mother, who considers that a woman should better find a husband and settle down.
When a famous actress is found murdered, and letters left by the killer point to Vivian being the next victim, the radio owner hires a private investigator who falls for Vivian.
I loved the setting of the book, the description of the cars, the clothes, the places. I didn't like Vivian much, and the romance is quite predictable, but this is a light, fun read, and I'll gladly read the next books in the series.
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The Darkness Knows is a fun glimpse into 1930’s Chicago and life at a radio station at the height of radio’s popularity. Vivian Witchell has finally secured herself a coveted role on a popular radio show called The Darkness Knows. One night between shows she discovers the dead body of another radio performer, a decidedly unpopular woman named Marjorie Fox. Beside the body is a note that seems to state that Vivian may be the next target and points to a deranged fan as the possible culprit. A private investigator named Charlie Haverman is assigned to protect Vivian. Feeling that the police are not pursuing the case as aggressively as they would like, Vivian and Charlie set out to solve the murder themselves.
The mystery was interesting enough, but the real highlight of this book is the setting, both 1930’s Chicago and the radio station itself. References to numerous Chicago institutions such as the Palmer House Hotel and its Empire Room, the streetcars, and Mandel Brothers Department Store were so fun to read about. Since it is the late 1930’s, Chicago is just barely out of the Great Depression, and the South side of Chicago has been sadly transformed by that event. The author’s descriptions of this phenomenon are particularly well done. The process by which the radio shows were produced and the politics around the station were fascinating. That was my favorite part by far. I now want to go on the internet and find some of the old radio shows and listen to them after learning so much about how the shows were produced.
This was a fun story to read, and I was glad I read it.
I do enjoy old radio shows, especially mystery and comedy. So, The Darkness Knows, a mystery set at a 1930's radio station, peaked my interest. Picking it up was definitely not a mistake. I loved this tale of a threatened radio actress and private eye hired to keep her safe. While this mystery could be described as cozy by some, it seems to have been influenced more by the hard-boiled school of mystery writing. There's definitely plenty of action, lively, often comic dialogue, a cast of shifty characters and a whole lab's worth full of chemistry between radio actress Viv and detective Charlie. It turns out that author Cheryl Honigford can put more passion into a single kiss than many authors use in a whole bedroom scene!
The mystery was interesting, with plenty of twists, turns and red herrings. All the loose threads are wrapped up neatly in the end except for one--what would happen between Viv and Charlie now that she no longer needs a bodyguard? Looking forward to the second installment in this series!
I found this to be a pretty entertaining cozy mystery. Set in a radio station back in the late 1930's, it was interesting to read about how the behind the scenes worked. They were really spitting out the programs and I found it interesting that one person could be on more than one show.
As for the mystery itself, I had the suspect correct, but the wrong reason for the trip to the foundling. So, that was kind of a buzz kill for me. However, I still enjoyed reading the book. I did find it a little strange that the main character, who I really liked, would have a relationship with a man after only four days. That had to be rare in this era.
Thanks Sourcebooks and Net Galley for my free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
Set in Chicago during the heyday of radio drama. I wanted to like Vivian better than I did. Every time I thought she was getting things together - she took off chasing stuff for her career. Instead of finding her likeable, I found her just too driven. Charlie wasn't much better. And Graham ... honestly, how many times is Vivian going to decide to flirt with him to further her own ends
It's not a bad story, just not gripping enough to make me want to read any more of the series.
Thanks SOURCEBOOKS Landmark and netgalley for this ARC.
So much is packed into this novel. Its condensed down to its perfect version. I loved the newness of radio in this novel. I think a lot of people are going to jump on the bandwagon so I hope the sequel will be coming out soon.
This book was great. Hard to believe this is the author's first book. I love the era and the descriptions of Chicago and radio. I felt like I was really there. The characters and the plot were fun. I did think, while not descriptive and behind closed doors, the implied sex was unnecessary. Still loved the book and can't wait to read the next one in the series.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley, and Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for an honest review
A quick addition to the book for those coming across my review through a feed or other means - this book is: Historical Fiction Mystery, and any and all romance is M/F.
As I noted in a status update, I initially was made aware of this book when I happened to notice it being recommended to me by GoodReads when I was on the GoodReads page for Strivers’ Row Spy. This book, out of all the ones being recommended to me, looked interesting enough to examine closer. For it reminded me, at first glance, of a show I had watched long ago which also involved a radio station slightly before then during the second world war. That one, though, was set in Pittsburgh (‘Remember WENN’), while this one is set in Chicago.
This book specifically follows a woman named Vivian Witchell (‘I prefer Viv) as she attempts to advance in her career as an actress on the radio. Certain things get in her way of being successful, or at least get in the way of her ability to concentrate, like finding dead bodies in lounges. For you see, Vivian stumbled across the dead body of Marjorie Fox – much beloved radio star (and much hated coworker by everyone who knew her).
A letter is found along with Vivian’s body. A letter implying that Vivian’s life might be in danger as well. So, since she happens to work on a show, The Darkness Knows, that has a private detective as a consultant, that detective is hired to work as Vivian’s bodyguard. So, private detective Charlie ‘don’t call me Chick’ Haverman appears on the scene.
Vivian and a somewhat reluctant Charlie then attempt to solve this specific murder.
I was surprised when I happened to look at the author’s page on GoodReads and saw that this book had started life as a Nanowrimo novel – for it is quite well written, very interesting, fun little book. It’s not that I can’t imagine such a book coming from Nanowrimo, I just imagine that forcing yourself to cram a full book length work into a month of writing somewhat diminishes an author’s ability to massage the work into a readable lovely work. Which this one is, a quite, as noted, well written book.
I have/had certain issues with some of the characters, but then I remind myself that it is the late 1930s, and a character that literally faints, is something of an odd mix of weak and strong, and who keeps almost collapsing because her knees grow weak in certain situations, might just be period accurate.
My knowledge of P.I.’s come from before (mostly the 1920s) and after the war (with the exception of one German P.I. who operated pre-WWII, during, then post WWII), and so I cannot say anything, really, about how the P.I. in this book is depicted. Though he does seem to be something of a cold, smug, smirking dick.
Regardless, despite saying what I say about the characters, I, for the most part, liked them well enough.
I do, though have two major issues with the book that adversely impacted on my enjoyment of the book. (1) the book includes some tense moments involving Charles and Vivian that are defused by the simple fact that this book is listed as being the first in a Viv and Charlie mystery series (two-fold issue – I know that they have to have some form of relationship, friend, other, something, for this book to be the first in said series and ; (2) I do not particularly like Charles and his smirking attitude ().
Despite the preceding paragraph, I again note that I enjoyed this book. And look forward to future books by this author.
Up and coming radio actress Vivian discovers the dead body of the station's leading lady in the green room, and she might be next. The details of 1938 Chicago were amazing. Also, I am a sucker for OTR, been listening to it since I discovered it and Remember WENN back in high school, so the details of life at the station were a ridiculous amount of fun. But the city really, really came to life and that was the best part of all for me. Viv was a great character--sympathetic, allowed to be scared, strong and smart, and clearly very ambitious. More Hilary Booth than Betty Roberts, which I loved. I liked Charlie and their flirtations, though I only half trusted him through most of the story. The mystery lagged a bunch in the middle, especially, to the point where I was enjoying the scenery and characters more than the plot, and I wasn't surprised by the killer. But I was engaged throughout, and can't wait to read book 2 next year, set at Christmas 1938. Christmas, Chicago, OTR and a mystery? It's like it was written just for me. <3
31/2 stars! Vivien Witchell is an up and coming radio star on 1930's Chicago radio station WCHI! Another well known radio actress is found dead--murdered--on the premises. A suspicious letter indicates that Vivien might be the second victim and Charlie Haverman, a private detective, is hired to protect her. Vivien jumps right in to try and solve the case--hence begins a new series--as indicated on the book jacket "A Viv and Charlie Mystery"! And by the way, the book cover illustration was great--really grabbed me! This was and easy relaxing cozy mystery. I love stories set in the 20's and 30's, however, one part that didn't fit the time, for me, was the of ease jumping into bed with the opposite sex. Though this was just one occurrence in the book, to me, it just didn't fit the time! I am looking forward to the next book. Read Chapter One of Book 2 at the end of this story.
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...
I received this book as a gift and it looked like it would be right up my alley. A mystery set in 1930's Chicago in the height of the radio age. The lead character is a radio actress, so I thought, "Great, this will be enjoyable." I'm sorry to say that I didn't care for it much. The mystery isn't very difficult at all to figure out. The lead character, I thought, was totally unlikeable and very childish and the writing and plot are both weak. Not to mention that I don't like my mysteries mixed up with romance and all the "sweaty palms and bated breaths" that usually go hand in hand with the genre. I have given the book 2 stars instead of 1 because I did finish it, and I do enjoy that era.
I love WWII era stories, and while The Darkness Knows is set a bit earlier I was drawn in by the idea of mystery set during the golden age of radio drama. Vivian is a radio actress caught up in a murder occurring at her station; Charlie is the detective assigned to watch over her. Viv's priorities shift from fame to searching for justice as the story progresses, determining who among her co-workers is responsible for killing one of Chicago's top radio stars.
The story is a delight for cozy/historical fiction readers, a good mix of suspense and romance and a solid sense of time and setting. I got from the end of the book there might be a followup, so we'll see.
I was captivated from the first sentence in "The Darkness Knows," a mystery novel set in 1938 Chicago and a murder at a radio station. The novel's setting and characters reminded me of the old television series, "Remember WENN," which we watched when my sons were young.
Vivian is an independent woman trying to make her way as a radio actress, except when she is drooling over handsome men or living in her mother's house. Vivian's character is just like the ones you would see in a 1938-era movie version of the book.
The rich history of Chicago bleeds off the pages in this thrilling mystery novel. There's glamour, intrigue and just a hint of romance, all while we get a glimpse into 1930s Chicago. Radio drama, murder, other mysteries and a love story all unfold within the pages of The Darkness Knows.