The G-String Murders is one of those books that is eclipsed by the fame of its author, in this case the most famous strip-tease artiste of them all, Gypsy Rose Lee.
For many years it was claimed that the book was ghost-written by successful mystery writer Craig Rice (a pseudonym used by Georgiana Ann Craig). It now seems to be generally accepted that in fact Gypsy Rose Lee wrote the book herself. Actually it’s fairly obvious that she did - the book is quite rough round the edges, the pacing is not quite right, the plot is ingenious but perhaps too ingenious. In other words it reads like a first-time novel by someone who was not a professional writer.
On the other hand it’s not without entertainment value. Gypsy Rose Lee might not have been the world’s most accomplished mystery writer but she certainly knew the world of burlesque. The novel is set entirely within that world and she brings it vividly to life, in all its seedy but fascinating glamour.
The heroine of the novel is a stripper named Gypsy Rose Lee, working in a burlesque theatre in New York. Things are going reasonably well for her, she’s in love with one of the comics (burlesque was as much about comedy as it was about strip-tease), and she’s fairly successful. And then one of the other strippers is murdered. Strangled with a g-string. That’s bad enough, but a second murder soon follows, with the same murder weapon.
Gypsy and her boyfriend Biff play amateur detective, which is just as well since the police aren’t having too much success. There’s no shortage of suspects, but there’s no obvious linkage between the two murders even though they were clearly committed by the same person, and this makes it very difficult to find a suspect with a sufficiently good motive for both slayings.
The book sold extremely well when it came out in 1941, although a second mystery novel, Mother Finds a Body, failed to repeat this success. The G-String Murders was filmed in 1943 as Lady of Burlesque (the film starred Barbara Stanwyck and it’s worth seeing).
The atmosphere and the details of life in burlesque are the book’s strengths and they’re enough to make it a worthwhile read.