The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes by Michael Kurland

HighHeel

It’s my enormous pleasure to be hosting an extract from the latest Alexander Brass Mystery The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes by Michael Kurland to celebrate publication today 23rd February 2016.

Published by Titan in paperback and e-book The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes is available on Amazon UKAmazon US and directly from Titan Books.

About The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes

“A brilliant period piece that fans of the classic thirties mystery will simply devour.”
Midwest Book Review

Newspaper columnist Alexander Brass is back in another captivating mystery. While New York enjoys the smooth sound of jazz and falls in love with swing, chorus girls and con artists are disappearing off the streets.

Two-Headed Mary, the philanthropic panhandler is missing. So is Billie Trask, who disappeared from the cashier’s office of hit show Lucky Lady with the weekend take. Could either of them have followed a third Broadway babe, chorus girl Lydia Laurent—whose dead body has been found in Central Park? It falls to New York World columnist Alexander Brass and his cheerfully wide-eyed sidekick Morgan DeWitt to dig up the truth.

too soon dead

The second stand alone novel in the Alexander Brass series, The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes follows hot on the heels of the spectacularly fun Too Soon Dead, with Kurland recreating the glamour of 1930s Broadway with celebrated wit and intrigue. Engagingly written and intricately plotted, readers old and new will become instantly immersed in this vintage mystery.

An extract from The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes

The column appeared on Wednesday, September 11. By that afternoon we were fielding phone calls from actors, dancers, stage managers, and other people in “the business,” as the showbusiness folk call their occupation, as though it were the only business on the planet worth considering. And a few from those denizens of Broadway whose professions couldn’t be classified, at least not if they wanted to stay out of jail. None of them had any worthwhile information regarding Two-Headed Mary’s whereabouts, but they all wanted us to know that they thought well of her. By the next morning, we had several letters from chorus girls, and one from a chorus boy, detailing how Two-Headed Mary had helped them with money, advice, or a place to stay when they were in need. I gave the letters to Brass with a note clipped to them that read: “St. Mary of the Grift. Maybe we should pass the story on to Damon Runyon.” He walked by my cubical later and glowered at me and muttered “Runyon indeed,” under his breath.

The next day, which would make it Thursday, at noon I was in the outer office discussing with Gloria the sensitive question of the acquisition of office supplies when the slender, well-groomed scion of the aristocracy, K. Jeffrey Welton, appeared in the doorway. He sported a red and blue striped tie and a red carnation boutonniere in the lapel of his gray cashmere suit jacket. His shoes were glossy black patent leather. His was the sort of elegance that makes we mere mortal men identify with toads; and we envy him but we do not like him. Women, I believe, feel differently—although how a woman can like a man who is habitually prettier than she is, I do not understand.

There are those who claim that the United States of America has no aristocracy; they are misguided. The Weltons and the Vanderbilts and the Astors and the Rockefellers and one particular set of Adamses and some Dutch families whose ancestors were burghers in Nieuw Amsterdam, and some others whose families have been here so long that their names no longer reverberate in casual conversation, are the American aristocracy. Some of these families are social, and are high up in the society Four Hundred, some irrepressible souls make up a part of café society, some pay lawyers and other servants large retainers to see that their names do not come before the public at all.

The Weltons made their money manufacturing shoes in Massachusetts. Welton boots covered the feet of both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, and American, British, and, it has been alleged, German soldiers during the World War. There was a congressional investigation about the latter incident, but it came to naught.

“Ta, all,” K. Jeffrey said in his clipped, slightly nasal, aristocratic voice. He leaned on his walking stick and smiled into the room. “What’s the good word?” Welton’s father still made shoes, but K. Jeffrey had taken his pittance of the family fortune and shifted it from the shoe business to the show business. You can imagine how his family must have felt about that. But whatever they felt about his choice of profession, they couldn’t argue with his success. He had come straight from Yale to Broadway and started in the esoteric field of play production about the same time I came to New York and began working on the Great American Novel. I had never gotten past page sixty in any of my attempts. K. Jeffrey had already produced four plays: one flop, two that just eked out their nut before closing, and a reasonable success. The success, the musical Lucky Lady, was even now in its sixth month at the Monarch Theater.

“Mr. Welton,” Gloria said, smiling sweetly up at him as he approached her desk. “Mr. Brass supplies the words, we just work here. What can we do for you?”

“This bloody Mary business,” he said, leaning on the desk and smiling down at Gloria. “Has she turned up yet?”

“Two-Headed Mary?” I asked.

“That’s her,” he agreed. “Very clever calling her ‘Matinee Mary,’” he said judiciously, “but then your boss is a clever man.”

“If she has reappeared we have not been told,” Gloria said. “Would you like to speak to Mr. Brass?”

“Sure thing,” Welton agreed. “If the old man is in, I’d like to chew the fat with him.”

“I’ll see,” I said, rising from the chair I had deposited myself in upon Welton’s entry.

“Are you in?” I asked Brass, who was staring out his window at something in New Jersey. “K. Jeffrey Welton would speak with you.”

“What does he want?” He asked, swiveling around in his chair.

“He didn’t say,” I said. “Just that he wants to chew the fat with the old man. By which, of course, I knew immediately that he meant you. Sir.”

Brass grimaced thoughtfully. “I’ll come out,” he said. “It will be easier to get rid of him.”

Welton was leaning against Gloria’s desk when we emerged, watching her. His pose was artfully casual, but there was something about his look that suggested that Gloria was a piece of cheesecake and he had just realized he was hungry. Gloria, who was used to being a piece of cheesecake in men’s eyes, was smiling up at him with a smile of devastating innocence.

Brass took in the pose at a glance. “Welton,” he said. “There’s a biblical injunction against coveting thy neighbor’s employee.”

“He wants me to star in his next show,” Gloria said, batting her eyelids theatrically. “Little me! Imagine!”

“He wants me to star in his next show,” Gloria said, batting her eyelids theatrically. “Little me! Imagine!”

“Get it in writing,” Brass advised. “I’ll have Syd negotiate the deal for you.” Syd Lautman was Brass’s attorney, and a very good and thorough one he was.

Jeffrey grinned. “You people don’t let any grass grow under your palms,” he said. “A little friendly proposition between a man and a woman, and all of a sudden it’s a business deal.”

“Predatory, we are,” Brass said. “Ready to take advantage of the innocent Broadway producer. What can I do for you, Welton?”

“Mary,” Welton said. “I understand she hasn’t turned up yet.” “True,” Brass agreed.

“The girls in my show are worried about her. They suggested I put up a reward for finding her. The idea being if I can do it for someone who’s a thief, I can do it for someone who’s a good Samaritan. And from the stories the girls tell me, Mary is an angel in disguise.”

“A thief?” Brass paused. “Oh, that’s right. Lucky Lady is your show. You mean the Trask girl.”

“That’s right. Billie Trask. Nice kid—I thought. Stole a weekend’s worth of box-office receipts, among other things, and disappeared. I have posted—I guess that’s the word, although I didn’t actually post anything anywhere—a thousand-dollar reward for finding her and my money.”

“Were the receipts that much?” I asked.

“A little less,” he said. “Which means, if they find her with all the money, I won’t quite break even.”

Brass frowned. “Didn’t you have insurance?”

“Sure. It covers the theater rental and utilities for two days.

Paying the cast and crew and the investors, I’m on my own.”

“Do you really think she did it?” I asked.

Jeffrey thought that over for a moment. “I certainly hope she didn’t,” he said. “As I say, I liked her. But the police think she did it. Apparently she had a secret boyfriend, and they think she ran off with him.”

“Do you want me to put that in my column?” Brass asked. “About the reward for Mary?”

“What do you think?” Welton asked.

“Why don’t you wait a few days? Perhaps she’ll return on her own.”

“All right,” Welton agreed. “If you think so. We’ll give her the weekend to show up. Listen, keep me informed, will you?”

“And you,” Brass said. “If you hear anything about either of our two mysteries, let me know.”

Welton nodded. “Turnabout, and all that,” he said. “If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. Well, must be going. Ave atque vale, old amicus.” And with that, and a wave of his hand, he was out the door.

“It shows,” Brass said, “the advantages of a Yale education. One can say goodbye almost entirely in Latin.”

———-

About Michael Kurland

Michael Kurland is the author of more than thirty novels, but is best known for his Edgar-nominated mystery series featuring Professor Moriarty, including The Infernal Device and The Great Game. He has also edited several Sherlock Holmes anthologies and written non-fiction titles such as How to Solve a Murder: the Forensic Handbook.

He lives in Petaluma California.

You can find out more about Michael and his books on his web site.

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