Hello howdy and hey y’all, it’s my first post ever!
I love detective stories. I’ve got a brain that enjoys puzzles and being right, so it’s fun on top of fun. But I am also super picky and easily distracted or annoyed by most mysteries. I need a challenge but not something so convoluted it’s unsolvable. I don’t want anything too cozy or too grim, nothing with lots of graphic violence/mutilation/torture but a decent amount of action. I prefer women authors and characters, I like diversity and a strong voice. And Stephen Spotswood’s series would hit every singe one of these metrics, but he’s a dude. Oh well, I guess I can get over that. Since the book I’m technically reviewing is the third installment in a detective series, I’m gonna focus less on the plot than on what’s great about the series as a whole.
The year is 1942. Our narrator is Willowjean (Will) Parker, former circus Jill-of-all-trades, current investigative assistant to New York City’s best detective – Lillian Pentecost. Lillian is an absolute force of nature – brilliant and brusque and bold – and living with multiple sclerosis. The first book starts with their paths crossing and move at a breakneck pace from there
The books follow the basic detective story format – odd murder, series of unfortunate events, danger, dead ends, denouement. Spotswood chose the 40s and writes in a delightful noir voice, I can hear the sleazy sax and smell the cigarettes (I half expect an introduction by Eddie Muller), but keeps the sensibilities modern – he delves into race and sexuality and tries to emphasize that there were many reasons these weren’t the good old days.
Of course, none of this would matter if the mysteries weren’t well thought, if the action wasn’t urgent or the dames weren’t deadly. Somehow, he makes it all work. There’s usually one twist I missed, which is fun, but nothing so outlandish or left field that I feel like throwing my kindle across the room during the reveal. And they’ve held up – each book has left me entertained, satisfied and looking forward to the next adventure.