Cover image for The revenge of Kali-Ra
The revenge of Kali-Ra
Beck, K. K.
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Publication Information:
New York : Mysterious Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
229 pages ; 24 cm
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Nadia Wentworth is a Hollywood star. A big star. And she's so dreadfully bored on location in the South Pacific, she begins reading the first thing her assistant can dig up: a piece of gloriously bad pulp fiction by 1920s author Valerian Ricardo. Nadia soon falls under the spell of the bewitching Kali-Ra, the Queen of Doom, and knows she must portray the infamous character on the big screen. Ecstatic, she hires a famous British screenwriter to pen the script, and as word leaks out, all sorts of pests start popping up, including: Ricardo's great grandnephew; his elderly "wife"; his biographer, who also happens to be an illegitimate granddaughter; and a gaggle of obsessed Ricardo fans. When someone is murdered, there are scads of suspects, a multitude of motives, and much mayhem in this delightful, laugh-out-loud farce from one of the most accomplished novelists in the genre.

Author Notes

Kathrine Kristine Beck was born in Seattle, Washington, on September 22, 1950. She received a B.A. from San Francisco State University. Before becoming a full-time mystery writer, Beck wrote advertising copy and edited a trade magazine. At one point she also sold radio air time, an experience she was later to include in We Interrupt this Broadcast, a mystery set in a small, classical radio station.

Beck's mysteries are usually written in a light-hearted vein. Her first mystery, Death in a Deck Chair, is an entertaining period piece set in the 1920s on a transatlantic ocean liner. The two main characters from that book, debutante college student Iris Cooper and brash young reporter Jack Clancy, reappear in some of her later books, including Murder in a Mummy Case and Peril Under the Palms.

Another recurring character is Jane da Silva, a middle-aged widow who becomes involved with various mysteries after she inherits her uncle's estate and, along with it, his business, which was helping desperate people find a solution to their problems. Books in this series include A Hopeless Case and Amateur Night.

Other books by Beck include The Revenge of Kali-Ra; Bad Neighbors; Cold Smoked; Electric City; Young Mrs. Cavendish and the Kaiser's Men; Unwanted Attentions; Without a Trace; Death of a Prom Queen, which was written under the pseudonym Marie Oliver, and The Tell-Tale Tattoo.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As the irresistibly tacky title suggests, this is a fun send-up of Hollywood types. By chance, spoiled actress Nadia Wentworth reads a story by obscure 1920s author Valerian Ricardo. After falling in love with the main character, Kali-Ra, Queen of Doom, she decides to resurrect the character in a movie starring (naturally) herself. It appears that no one owns the rights to the old Ricardo novels, but soon a variety of supposed relatives and strange Ricardo-ites begins crawling out of the woodwork. All eventually congregate at Nadia's mansion, where mysterious threats against the actress ensue. Although the mystery of who is making the threats is unremarkable, Beck has great fun with the odd cast of characters. Best of all, perhaps, is the use she makes of the novel-within-a-novel gambit, interspersing sections of Ricardo's pulpy books with the main action. As cheesy and addictive as snack chips, the Kali-Ra stories will have many readers wishing they could pick up an old Ricardo novel at the library. --Jenny McLarin

Publisher's Weekly Review

Beck rightly dedicates this zany parody of 1920s exotic adventure fiction to Sax Rohmer, E. Phillip Oppenheim, the Baroness Orczy and their ilk, who created the genre. Movie superstar Nadia Wentworth reads The Wrath of Kali-Ra, written decades ago by the long-forgotten Valerian Ricardo, and determines to produce a film about the eponymous cruel dominatrix, Queen of Doom. Immediately, Nadia is besieged by a horde of greedy claimants to the Kali-Ra copyright and by others scrambling for a financial piece of the movie: Ricardo's possessive widow; his naïve great-grandnephew; a scheming, possibly illegitimate granddaughter; an inquisitive academic authority on Ricardo; a luckless British screenwriter; a feckless lawyer representing a crook hiding in the Caribbean; an inept security adviser; a washed-up crooner with Mafia connections; and a mysterious "slave" of Kali-Ra. Melanie Oakley, Nadia's assistant, must sort through this dazzling hodgepodge and protect Nadia's project. Mistaken identity, accidents, fights, a stabbing and an abduction proceed apace, studded with hilarious excerpts from Ricardo's melodramatic novels. After a grand finale in which the copyright ownership is cleared and nearly all the characters pair off, readers will still be chuckling at this dead-on sendup of Hollywood and pulp fiction. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Nadia Wentworth, a big-bosomed, empty-headed Hollywood actress, chances upon a fictional character she wishes to portray. Taken from pulp novels by a jaded 1920s drug addict, Kali-Ra (the Queen of Doom) embodies a dangerous blend of eroticism, bondage, and violence. As soon as Nadia makes her plans known, grasping strangers appear on her doorstep: the author's ancient widow, an alcohol-soaked scriptwriter, and (could it be!) Kali-Ra's current incarnation. Beck's (We Interrupt This Broadcast, LJ 11/1/97) subsequent mixture of spoof, exaggerated confrontation, phoney mysticism, and murder spotlights Nadia's level-headed assistant Melanie, who saves the day. For larger collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.