It wasn't until the 1950s that Messenger turned her hand to writing crime fiction, which she noted required the same skills as cooking: "You must have imagination in both…rigid obedience to detail, and all the ingredients must be at hand. Every cook and every writer expresses herself differently." She wrote one or two books a year until her untimely death from cancer in 1965.
Several of her novels are set in tourist spots in New Zealand, which may be one reason her London publisher promoted that aspect of the books. Somehow a scenic backdrop in a country known for its laid-back culture may not have been the best way to market what the author intended to be "thrillers," although they did well enough to be translated into other languages. It is her cookbooks for which she's most remembered today, and her crime fiction is harder to find.
Publicity for Murder follows in the same tradition of mysteries with an advertising/marketing theme that Dorothy Sayers popularized in her novel Murder Must Advertise. The story begins with the apparent suicide of the partner of an ad agency, who leaves his entire estate to his colleague, David Eversleigh, instead of his selfish, glamorous wife, Pam. The police don't buy the suicide angle and focus their attention on Eversleigh and his wife Judith as obvious suspects. The POV is Judith's, as she tries to make sense of the tragedy and does some sleuthing on her own to prove her innocence. After two attempts on her life and her husband's continued protectiveness toward Pam, Judith begins to wonder if the greatest danger to her life and liberty lies a little too close to home.
Although set in New Zealand, the book is rather scant on setting details, and at times the plot has a bit of a generic feel to it, as if it could have been set almost anywhere. The characterization and plotting are also a bit on the light side, but Messenger throws in just enough uncertainty and damsel-in-distress elements to keep you turning the page.